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The Insanity Plea

The insanity defense has been a subject of intense debate ever since it was first developed in the UK in 1843. The first legal standard for insanity was known as the M’Naghten rule, named for a schizophrenic man who was found not guilty after killing a politician. The court ruled that because M’Naghten was suffering under a delusion due to a mental illness at the time of the murder, he could not be held legally responsible for what he had done.

Although the US originally followed this same reasoning, it was not long before courts began to examine and re-design their states’laws concerning mentally ill criminals. The courts around our country have defined insanity in many different ways over the years, always trying to strike the balance between unreasonably vague and unfairly strict.

The Insanity Plea in Wisconsin

In 1962, the American Law Institute introduced a new legal definition of insanity that incorporated elements of several previous definitions. At one point, all fifty states observed this definition, known as the ALI Model Penal Code Standard. Today only eighteen states, including Wisconsin, continue to use this definition of legal insanity.

  • Lacks the capacity to understand the consequences of the crime, or
  • Lacks the ability to control his or her behavior, and
  • Has been diagnosed with a mental illness by a medical professional

Are Mentally Ill Criminals Let Off the Hook?

Many people believe that a person found not guilty by reason of insanity is simply released from custody. This is not the case. People found legally insane are committed to psychiatric hospitals until they are no longer a danger to themselves or others. In many cases this may never happen, so people found legally insane often spend longer in hospitals than they would have in prison.

Contact the Appleton Defense Lawyers

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, contact the offices of Appleton defense lawyers Hart Powell, S.C. at 414-271-9595 for legal advice.