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Requirements for pleading insanity for a crime

On Behalf of | Aug 21, 2023 | CRIMINAL LAW - Criminal Defense

In Oklahoma, a legal strategy known as the defense of insanity can admit that a defendant committed an act but assert that mental illness at the time should exempt them from legal responsibility. Questions and debates surround this concept, often touching on the nature of criminal responsibility and mental health.

A mental health disorder does not qualify everyone, as the criteria are strict and well-defined.

Understand the legal definition of insanity

Oklahoma bases the legal definition of insanity on the M’Naghten rule. This rule means a defendant must have suffered from a mental disease or defect at the time of the crime to the degree that they did not know their actions were wrong. Providing evidence of this lack of understanding is crucial to the defense.

Establish a mental disease or defect

To plead insanity, you must first establish that you have a mental disease or defect. Mental health professionals must conduct a thorough examination to determine if your condition meets the legal standards of severe mental illness.

Prove a lack of understanding right from wrong

The second important component in pleading insanity in Oklahoma involves demonstrating that the mental disease or defect kept you from understanding that your actions were wrong. This goes beyond ignorance of the law; it means you could not comprehend that your actions were morally or legally wrong when you committed the offense.

Testimony of expert witnesses

Expert witnesses must testify in court about their findings in an insanity defense. Mental health professionals who have evaluated you will discuss your mental condition, its effect on your ability to understand right from wrong and why they believe it should result in a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict.

A successful insanity plea means you will not be guilty of the crime. However, this does not mean freedom. You will likely find yourself committed to a mental health facility for treatment. The length of commitment can depend on the mental illness severity and any risk to yourself or others.