When Can You Plead Insanity?

Whether you were in another place at the time or were unknowingly drugged, there are often a number of defenses available when you have been charged with a crime. But what if you commit a crime without knowing that it was wrong? This is sometimes the case due to mental disease or defect. If you did, in fact, commit the crime without this awareness, can you still be found guilty? Defendants sometimes plead not guilty by reason of insanity, otherwise known as the insanity defense. The purpose of the insanity defense is so that we treat everyone fairly and don’t punish people in a manner that would be inequitable to their condition at the time that the crime was committed.

This affirmative defense, which is available in New York, requires strict proof to show insanity. It’s important to understand that there is a difference between medically insane and legally insane; they are not the same thing.

Not Guilty by Reason of Mental Disease or Defect Doesn’t Equal Innocence

It should be noted that when a defendant is found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, it does not mean that they are innocent. When the defense successfully raises the insanity defense, although the defendant won’t go to jail, he or she will be sent to a mental institution for the same amount of time that they would have been imprisoned. 

Model Penal Code Test

New York uses what is called the Model Penal Code test, which places the burden on the defendant. Under this test, a defendant is considered insane if he or she was unable to act within legal constraints or failed to understand their acts due to a mental defect. 

Put simply, in order for a defendant to be convicted of most crimes, the prosecution must show that the defendant demonstrated willful intent. Therefore, if the defendant is ruled as legally insane, there can be no willful intent and therefore no guilty ruling.  

Under the Model Penal Code test, a defendant is to be found not guilty by reason of insanity if he or she has been diagnosed by a licensed mental health care professional with a relevant medical defect and at the time of the alleged crime he or she was unable to:

  1. Appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct; or
  2. Conform his or her conduct to the requirements of the law. 

Notice of Intent

In order to bring an insanity defense, the defendant must provide notice of their intent to assert such a defense. In order to do so, he or she must notify an attorney for the government in writing within the proper amount of time allotted to file a pretrial motion (unless granted the right to file later), and they must file a copy of the notice with the clerk.

Contact Our Suffolk County Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, it can have many serious consequences. When you are already dealing with so much, the last thing that you want to do is to have to worry about tackling the legalities of your situation.

The Suffolk County criminal defense attorneys at Macedonio & Duncan, LLP can help you to fight your criminal charges. We understand the physical, mental, emotional, and financial hardships that can transpire as a result of a criminal charge. That’s why we will help you to gather the necessary evidence and build a case for the most optimal outcome. To learn more or to schedule a confidential consultation, contact us today!