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Insanity Defense

Definition - What does Insanity Defense mean?

The insanity defense refers to a legal defense in the court of law where a person is not held culpable for their actions due to their mental health issue(s). These mental health issues can include both permanent mental health issues and episodic mental health issues.

Justipedia explains Insanity Defense

In the United States, criminal trials are broken into two separate phases. The first phase is the guilt phase. The second phase is the sentencing phase. The insanity defense is only used during the sentencing phase here in the United States. During the phase where the judge or jury is determining whether the defendant is guilty, the defendant's attorney is not allowed to bring in any evidence concerning their client's mental state. However, if the defendant is found to be guilty of a crime, then the defense attorney can ask for his or her client's sentence to be shortened, or even lifted, due to the defendants insane state of mind during the act of the crime. Many people who are found guilty, but insane will serve their time in a mental health facility that treats prisoners.

The insanity defense is not easily won. It is important that defendants are able to help with their defense. So, a court may order that they take medication for a specific period in order to make them competent during trial. A forensic psychiatrist or a forensic psychologist will be called in to examine the defendant.

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