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The Insanity Defense


After being accused of a crime, you must reach out to a qualified criminal defense attorney. Once you reach out to a defense attorney, they will develop a defense strategy to help you. How your defense attorney handles your case depends entirely on the specifics of your case and the level of information you share with them. Therefore, if you’ve been accused of committing a crime, you must be honest with your attorney so they can prepare the best defense strategy for your case.

Among the many defenses that defense attorneys use is the insanity defense. However, it is crucial to note that not all states allow for the insanity defense. Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Kansas are the four states in the United States of America that don’t explicitly recognize the insanity defense. This means that if you are in New York and are currently facing a criminal charge, your defense attorney might be able to use the insanity defense if you had a mental disorder at the time you committed the crime in question.

Laws Governing the Insanity Defense in New York

New York Penal Law 40.15 outlines the laws governing the defense involving lack of mental culpability. According to the law, a defense attorney is legally allowed to use the insanity defense during prosecution if their defendant engaged in the prohibited conduct at a time when they lacked criminal responsibility because of mental disease or defect. An attorney can use such a defense if at the time a defendant committed the crime in question, they lacked substantial capacity to appreciate or know either;

  • that such behavior was illegal or
  • the nature and consequences of such behavior

In New York, defense attorneys are usually expected to prove the insanity defense using the evidentiary standard known as “preponderance of the evidence.” Under this evidentiary standard, the burden of proof is met when an individual convinces the court that there is more than a 50% chance that their claim is true.

To prove the elements of the insanity defense, your attorney can use psychiatric evidence.

Generally, the insanity defense is a long-shot defense. Nonetheless, under the right circumstances, a skilled criminal defense attorney can convince the jury to reach an insanity defense verdict. If such a verdict is reached in your case, you will be found guilty by reason of insanity.

What Happens After the Court Reaches an Insanity Defense Verdict?

Several things could happen if a defense attorney manages to convince the court to reach an insanity defense verdict. For example, a defendant may be sentenced to a mental institution rather than to prison. In such a case, the defendant may not be allowed to leave the institution as long as they are considered a danger to society. If an insanity defense verdict is reached, a defendant might also be released early and put under the care of a family member who can monitor them and keep them on the right track.

Contact Our NYC Criminal Defense Attorney for Legal Assistance

If you or a loved one currently stand accused of committing a crime, but you believe that a mental disorder contributed to the prohibited conduct in question, reach out to a skilled criminal defense attorney for help. To receive help proving the insanity defense or to learn about other defense options, contact an experienced NYC criminal defense attorney at the office of Mark I. Cohen, Esq., today to schedule a consultation.


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