Under what circumstances can the insanity defense be used in a criminal case in Los Angeles?
The insanity defense can be used when somebody commits a crime who is not operating in their right mind. In other words, the person is unable to realize what they were doing and the consequences of their actions. This usually occurs when somebody either has a mental illness or is temporarily unable to understand the gravity or consequences of their actions.
In my experience, having successfully used the insanity defense, I typically see the defendant operating under the mistaken belief that they are somehow defending themselves from some sort of evil threat. The basis for this delusional belief can take many forms. However, the best way to get to the bottom of what is going on is to hire an expert to evaluate the subject person and determine what is causing their delusional behavior. Both the prosecution and defense are entitled to their own expert to determine whether the defendant’s conduct is criminal or not. If after the experts have weighed in, it is still unclear to the judge, then he or she can appoint their own expert to break the tie.
Even if a person is found not guilty by reason of insanity that does not completely free them from the crime. They will then be sent to a mental institution to be evaluated and held until they are able to go back into society. Obviously, the government will not allow this person back out into the community until they are able to determine if they are safe and free from the delusional behavior that got them in trouble in the first place.
In my experience, the best insanity defense is related to circumstances where the person is doing something that really doesn’t benefit them in anyway. Therefore, it can be argued that they truly are operating under a delusional state and not trying to gain anything for the criminal activity.
THE LAW RELATED TO AN INSANITY DEFENSE IN LOS ANGELES – PENAL CODE SECTION 1026
Penal Code Section 1026 is the starting point when it comes to figuring out exactly how to present a successful insanity defense in a criminal case. It basically states if a defendant pleads not guilty by reason of insanity and also enters not guilty pleas to the charges, then he or she will first be tried as if he or she were sane at the time the crimes were allegedly committed. If the jury comes back not guilty on the charges, then the defendant is exhonerated of the charges and can move on with his or her life. If, on the other hand, the jury comes back guilty, then the jury must next decide if the defendant was not guilty by reason of insanity or not. The trial court has the discretion as to whether to use the same jury or to use a new jury for the sanity phase of the trial.
If a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity, then he or she will not necessarily be set free from custody. The defendant will be housed in a mental hospital until he or she is sane. Once determined to be sane, then they will be released back into the community. If the defendant is never determined to be sane, then they will never be released from the mental hospital. In order to be released under the above described circumstances, the defendant is entitled to a hearing before the trial court that heard his or her case in order to determine if sanity has been restored.