Insanity Defense FAQ | Clearwater - Tampa

If you're facing criminal charges and are considering an insanity defense, you most likely have a litany of questions regarding your case. Although the Insanity Defense is one of the most controversial defenses, ironically, it is rarely used. Our Law Firm has had success asserting the insanity defense, acquiring Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity verdicts for individuals. It is our goal to ensure you obtain the answers you deserve, as well as give you the representation and assistance you need to ensure a successful outcome for your case.

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Here are some common questions that our firm receives from clients involved in Insanity Defense cases:

Does “Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity” Mean I Get Out of Jail?

Yes. However, if you or someone you know is successful in asserting the insanity defense, it is highly likely that a treatment regimen will follow. There is a possibility that the State Hospital may be part of that treatment regimen. The length of treatment and the conditions that are placed on an individual are usually determined based on the severity of the mental illness, the likelihood that the person will respond to treatment and whether the individual is a danger to society. A judge can assert jurisdiction over a person for years to ensure the person is not violating conditions of release.

Does your criminal defense team handle insanity defense cases?

Yes. Be careful selecting an attorney for this type of case. Do not be afraid to ask the prospective attorney(s) about their experience in handling insanity cases. The law is very detail specific when it comes to mental illnesses. You should put your trust in an attorney who has worked with these types of cases after a lengthy discussion about whether the insanity defense is the best option.

What is the Insanity Defense in Florida?

The insanity defense is an affirmative defense. All persons accused of a crime in the state of Florida are presumed to be sane. The defendant has the burden to show that he or she has a mental defect or illness and because of a mental defect or illness, he or she did not know what he or she was doing or the consequences or the defendant knew what he or she was doing but did not know it was wrong.

How Do I Prove I Was Insane?

Insanity for an insanity defense is proven through a psychiatrist or other mental health expert. We would call upon a psychiatrist to conduct tests on an to prove or disprove the defendant's mental health during the commission of a crime. Many mental health experts specialize in interviewing and evaluating defendants in court cases.

Florida uses the M'Naghten rule, named for Englishman Daniel M'Naghten, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1843 for murdering the Prime Minister's secretary, is used by a majority of states and was fundamental in establishing the insanity defense. With the M'Naghten rule, a defendant is deemed to be legally insane if he or she was unaware of what he or she was doing when the offense was committed or, even if the defendant knew what he or she was doing, that defendant was incapable of understanding that what they were doing was wrong.

Due to the fact that the insanity defense is one of the most controversial strategies, additional test and determinations may apply depending on the specific case and court.

What is the Difference Between Insanity & Competency?

Competency determines whether a defendant will be able to appear at trial and understand the proceedings; sanity determines whether a defendant will be held responsible for his criminal actions. Therefore, a defendant who is competent to stand trial may nonetheless be found “not guilty by reason of insanity.

If I am Found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity, Am I a Free Man?

Yes. However, if you or someone you know is successful in asserting the insanity defense, it is highly likely that a treatment regimen will follow. There is a possibility that the State Hospital may be part of that treatment regimen. The length of treatment and the conditions that are placed on an individual are usually determined based on the severity of the mental illness, the likelihood that the person will respond to treatment and whether the individual is a danger to society. A judge can assert jurisdiction over a person for years to ensure the person is not violating conditions of release.

What is the Difference Between Heat of Passion & Insanity?

In a criminal case, “the heat of passion” is when the accused was in an uncontrollable rage at the time of the commission of the alleged crime vs. the insanity defense which is ongoing mental illness. If the heat of passion is determined, it may reduce the charge, indictment or judgment down from murder to manslaughter, since the passion precluded the defendant having premeditation or being fully mentally capable of knowing what he/she was doing.

Is the Insanity Defense a Good Defense?

The insanity defense is there to protect a person charged with a crime that is too impaired due to mental illness to be held criminally responsible for their actions. The benefit of successful insanity pleas is that people are sentenced to treatment instead of incarceration in prisons. However, the insanity defense often results in long term institutional placements that can be longer than prison sentences resulting from guilty verdicts.

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Powers Sellers & Finkelstein is committed to answering your questions about Criminal Defense law issues in Florida. We offer a free consultation and we'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.