When you face a criminal accusation in Pennsylvania, you have the right to enter a plea. Typically, you will say you are not guilty. However, sometimes you may admit guilt but with a condition. The best-known example is guilty by reason of insanity. While many have heard of this plea, it is commonly misunderstood.
An insanity plea, according to Cornell Law School, is a defense more than a plea. You are saying that you committed the crime, but you were not mentally sound at the time and therefore could not account for your actions. This is not a plea you can easily evoke. Here are three points about it that you need to understand.
- For federal crimes, you must prove your insanity
If you face federal charges, you have to prove through the introduction of evidence that you are, or were at the time of the crime, mentally unsound.
- There is a legal test for insanity
The jury in your case will have to hear medical testimony about your mental state. The jurors must then decide if you were incapable of knowing what you were doing and if you knew your actions were wrong. If you did not know what you were doing and could not comprehend that it was wrong, then you pass the test.
Another test looks at your ability to control your own actions. If you lack self-control and you could not prevent yourself from committing the crime due to a mental illness or defect, then you can use the insanity plea.
- Insanity is an excuse defense,not a justification defense
When you plead insanity, you admit that you are guilty of the accused crime. However, you put up as a defense that you were not able to understand or control your behavior and could not prevent yourself from committing the crime due to a mental condition.
The insanity plea is not something that you can use lightly. It still means you plead guilty and therefore are subject to punishments accordingly.