Ohio residents may be familiar with a case involving a man who fired shots in a Colorado movie theater. He is accused of injuring 70 people and killing 12 others. The man's lawyers admit that he fired shots. However, they argue that the accused is not legally responsible for the crime because he was mentally insane at the time of the incident.
The criminal defense of "not guilty by reason of insanity" applies when a person lacks the ability to create the requisite intent to commit a crime due to a mental disease or defect. This defense does not focus on the facts surrounding the allegations but on the state of the mind of the accused person. The most commonly used test is the M'Naghten test, which asks the jury to determine whether, at the time of the alleged crime, the accused had the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. If the answer is no, the person is not guilty by reason of insanity.
When a judge or jury returns a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, the individual is not sent to jail or prison. Instead, the judge orders that the individual be handed over to a treatment facility to receive inpatient care. Some people who are found not guilty by reason of insanity remain in these facilities for life, but others recover and are eventually released into society.
When a person who suffers from a mental disease or defect is accused of committing a crime, a criminal defense attorney may be able to help establish that the accused individual is not responsible for those acts. An attorney may be able to assist with seeking necessary treatment for the individual rather than incarceration.