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    When Can Insanity Be Used as a Defense in California?

    Posted on: May 9th, 2024 by Dod Law

    Insanity Defense

    Insanity Defense

    California’s criminal code outlines its residents’ right to the insanity defense, stating that parties charged with criminal consequences must meet specific criteria to plead “not guilty by reason of insanity.” If you find yourself in a situation that meets these requirements, you can use an insanity plea to argue against any criminal charges brought against you.

    You and your loved ones can work with a criminal defense attorney with Dod Law to determine whether or not an insanity plea has a place in your upcoming case. Our team can break the logistics of pleading insanity down while also recommending alternative defenses that may better protect your right to freedom.

    What is the Insanity Defense?

    The insanity defense protects parties who do not understand that they are engaging in criminal misconduct. The state believes that without intent, a person cannot commit a crime. There’s a distinction, however, between someone engaging in what they believe to be a just mission and someone who cannot understand their own behavior.

    The prosecution involved in a criminal case has an obligation to prove that a person accused of criminal misconduct engaged in mens rea and actus reus. Mens rea means that the acting party engaged in an activity with a guilty mind or the intent to participate in illegal behavior. Actus reus, comparatively, requires a person to act on that guilty impulse.

    If a person engages in actus reus but not mens rea, they may have the right to use the insanity defense to protect themselves from the consequences of an action they didn’t understand.

    Can You Use an Insanity Defense in California?

    The term “insanity” underwent reinterpretation as of 1994 in California. That year, California courts determined that the term “insanity” could not serve as a catch-all for mental illnesses or a liable party’s intoxicated state. Instead, anyone who wanted to plead insanity in California had to either:

    • Prove that they were incapable of understanding the criminal nature or quality of their behavior
    • Prove that they do not have the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong

    Anyone pleading insanity must prove these points with a preponderance of evidence, or a considerable amount of support, to have the charges brought against them dropped. Lawyers can help individuals work through their case and get them the support and understanding they need to utilize this defense.

    What Alternative Defenses Can You Use to Protect Your Freedom?

    There are other defenses you can use to respond to law enforcement’s unjust attempts to hold you criminally accountable for behavior you allegedly engaged in. Some defenses, like “justified course of action,” argue that while you may have engaged in criminal misconduct, you did so believing that it was the right thing to do.

    You may alternatively argue that attending police officers misinterpreted your behavior and that you were not, in fact, in violation of California law. Depending on your circumstances, you might also argue that you were illegally detained or that officers used incomplete or faulty evidence to accuse you of misconduct.

    You can work with an attorney to craft the best defense for your case, as a criminal defense attorney has the time and knowledge necessary to investigate your circumstances.

    Let Dod Law Defend Your Best Interests Today

    While certain situations allow you to plead insanity to criminal charges, there are other defenses that can more effectively protect you from the long-term consequences of alleged criminal misconduct. You can meet with Attorney Dod at Dod Law today to discuss whether or not an insanity plea has a place in your upcoming criminal case.

    Contact us at our San Diego office (619) 814-5110 | Orange County office 949-681-7020  | Vista office 760-814-6025 | or schedule an appointment by filling out our online contact form to book a free defense evaluation today.

    At a Glance

    Meet Attorney Dod Ghassemkhani

    • Recent Case Results
    • San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association | Named San Diego County’s 2023 Trial Lawyer Of The Year
    • Award Winning Criminal Defense Attorney
    • The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers
    • Over 20 years of criminal defense experience
    • 10.0 “Superb” Avvo Rating