After the recent posts about the “American Sniper” murder trial, many are wondering about the insanity defense. In movies and in TV shows, they make it seem easy to plea “insanity” and get away with a crime, but the reality is it is not an easy defense to use or prove.
The insanity defense, also referred to as the M’Naghten Rule, is not something a defendant can just use to excuse themselves from a crime. Instead, the rule is looked at by Florida courts to assess whether a person is guilty or what type of punishment they deserve for the crime they have committed.
Not Knowing Right from Wrong
The M’Naghten Rule, which stemmed from the M’Naghten case in 1843, is a standard that is applied in court. Because the infamous case allowed a man to shoot and kill the British Prime Minister while saying he was “insane”, Queen Victoria established stricter rules for how those individuals are assessed. Today, those rules apply in the United States. Medical experts must provide testimony proving that a person is actually insane and that at the time of the criminal act, they didn’t know the difference between right and wrong.
PTSD as a Criminal Defense
Using PTSD as a criminal defense falls under the insanity and diminished capacity plea. But, this is a highly controversial defense, especially for veterans who have committed crimes after coming home from war. In the American Sniper case, the guilty party claimed that PTSD was the cause for their insanity and that was what forced him to kill two men.
Guilty, but Insane
In most insanity defenses, a person does not end up walking away and returning to their lives. Instead, they are found guilty by reason of insanity and serve their time in a medical treatment facility rather than prison.
Claiming PTSD or another reason for insanity is not easy. The criminal justice system is also seeing an increase in the number of PTSD defenses for individuals who have committed crimes, rather than just violent crimes. Because there are no concrete studies or statistics, this defense is left up to a battle of the experts and a jury, which means it could go either way.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney First
Before you establish your own defense, you need to speak to a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can tell you whether or not you have a legal, excusable defense, and can integrate that into their arguments.
If you or a loved one was arrested and you suffer from PTSD, contact the attorneys at Anderson O’Sullivan & Associates today for a free consultation.