If using the legal defense of insanity, which is allowable in California, the defense is asking for the person not to be convicted of the crime at hand because he or she was, in fact, insane at the time the criminal act took place. According to California law, the insanity defense legally can be used in court if the defense attorney believes the defendant did not understand the nature of the criminal act or had no idea what he or she was doing was wrong. An aggressive, California criminal defense attorney can prove to the court the person was legally insane at the time the crime was committed. If the court is convinced the person is not guilty by reason of insanity, he or she most likely will be admitted to a mental hospital in the state opposed to sentenced to serve out a prison term.
California’s McNaghten Test/McNaghten Rule
In California, a test, known as the McNaghten test, or the McNaghten rule, is used to determine someone’s sanity. If a person’s mental state matches up with the McNaughten test’s criteria for determining mental insanity, then he or she could be committed to a mental hospital instead of convicted of a crime. Even if the insanity was temporary, a person may avoid a conviction if insanity is proven. The defense just must prove the person was incapable of understanding the nature of his or her behavior or he or she did not have the ability to understand the difference between right and wrong in the situation.
Successfully Using The Insanity Defense
It typically is up to a jury to decide if the defendant should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. This means the defendant most likely will have to go through a criminal trial. During the trial, the defense attorney will seek to convince the jury of the defendant’s failing mental state.
In essence, the defense attorney, and defendant, are not disputing that the criminal act was done, but that it was done due to insanity so the person should be excused for his or her wrongful behavior. This is known as an affirmative defense.
If a California criminal defense attorney is able to prove his or her client is not guilty by reason of insanity, the person will not be sentenced to prison but will be turned over to a state mental hospital for treatment. A person found insane is committed to a mental hospital to be rehabilitated and to protect the defendant from harm, as well as the public from any future harm. A person found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity is committed to a mental hospital for as long as it take for sanity to be regained or to graduate to an outpatient treatment program instead.