The criminal justice system is designed to ensure that criminals receive fair and just punishment for their actions. What constitutes a “fair and just” punishment varies greatly depending on the severity of the crime in question. Minor offenses may only result in fines totally a few hundred dollars and perhaps a few nights in the county jail. Serious offenses may result in fines totaling thousands of dollars, years of containment in a federal prison (including the possibility of a life sentence), or in some states (including Missouri) possibly even death.
When you are facing criminal accusations, your fate will largely depend on the skill and expertise of the criminal defense attorney you secure to provide your representation. Your attorney can use a variety of different strategies to either prove your innocence or reduce your charges/sentence. This week, the criminal attorneys at Deputy & Mizell, LLC are here to examine a specific type of defense that may be used in some situations.
The “Insanity Defense”
Missouri Revised Statute 552.030. 1. states: “A person is not responsible for criminal conduct if, at the time of such conduct, as a result of mental disease or defect such person was incapable of knowing and appreciating the nature, quality, or wrongfulness of such person’s conduct.”
In layman’s terms, the insanity defense is based on the simple principle that in order to be held legally responsible for one’s actions, one must be able to understand that said actions are morally and/or legally wrong. If the defendant is incapable of grasping that his actions are wrong, he may be able to plead “not guilty by reason of insanity.” Individuals who receive this ruling may not be held legally responsible for their actions.
The M’Naughten Rule
With the exception of Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Kansas, every state has some variation of insanity defense that may be a potential defense strategy in some criminal cases. The specifics vary from state to state. Missouri is governed by the M’Naughten Rule, which is a type of test designed to evaluate whether or not the defendant understood the wrongness of his act at the time that the act was committed.
In order for the insanity defense to stand up under the M’Naughten test, the defendant must meet at least one of the two following criteria:
- The defendant understood the true nature of the crime at the time that it was committed.
- The defendant was capable of distinguishing right from wrong at the time that the crime was committed.