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What Is an Insanity Defense?

There are different kinds of legal defense that can be utilized in order to save a defendant from a conviction and ultimately, a sentencing. A rare but often successful legal defense used is the insanity defense wherein the defendant is lacking mental capacity to fully understand the crime that he or she committed. A not guilty plea by reason of insanity is a defense by excuse, since the defendant did not have reasonable mental faculties in order to have committed the crime with complete intention.

An insanity defense argues that the defendant should not be held accountable for the crime for which he or she has been accused of since he or she was mentally impaired at the time the crime was committed. However, jurisdictions vary on what constitutes insanity. In order to prove insanity, the legal counsel for the defense must provide clear and convincing evidence of the defendant’s insanity. However, some jurisdictions only require preponderance of evidence or the balance of probabilities as a standard when it comes to the insanity defense. Individuals who are subject to an insanity defense use insanity as a justification or excuse for the offenses they have committed.

An individual who is found guilty of insanity may be permanently institutionalized in a mental hospital as part of his or her sentencing. Although this sentencing leaves little chance of appeal, it is not the same as a punishment. The defendant may also be required to undergo psychiatric treatment. This is to rehabilitate the individual instead of punishing a person who is guilty of criminal insanity.

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