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Camden Criminal Lawyers: Insanity Defense

The insanity defense in criminal cases is often misunderstood and can be difficult to prove. Insanity laws for criminal cases in New Jersey are in place in order to help defendants who are truly not responsible for their actions. However, there are challenges in pleading a successful insanity defense, and many frequent misconceptions.

The M’Naghten Insanity Test in New Jersey Criminal Cases

Pleading insanity in a New Jersey criminal case is an affirmative defense in which a defendant admits that they committed a crime, but asserts that they were not responsible for their actions due to mental illness. This mental illness must satisfy the legal definition of insanity, which confirms that the defendant was at the time incapable of determining right from wrong. This can be difficult to prove, but New Jersey and many other states have outlined a particular set of rules which can determine if a defendant did not have the mental capabilities to be truly responsible for the crimes they have committed. This is based on a test known as the M’Naghten Test.

When pleading the insanity defense against criminal charges in New Jersey, the M’Naghten test is used to determine insanity. The test states that a defendant can be defined as legally insane if:

  • They were not mentally capable of understanding the nature of their actions;
  • If they understood the nature of their actions, they were incapable of understanding that they were wrong legally or morally.

If psychiatrists determine that a defendant fits either of the above criteria, then they are proven not guilty by reason of insanity, Camden criminal lawyers affirm.

Insanity Defense Court Procedures in New Jersey Criminal Cases

If a defendant intends to use an insanity defense, their defense lawyer must be advised beforehand. Both the criminal lawyer and the prosecution will have their own psychiatrists examine the defendant at trial. These psychiatrists are legally not allowed to voice their opinion regarding the defendant’s mental health at the time of the crime. They are only allowed to make an unbiased professional medical diagnosis regarding the defendant’s mental health.

If the insanity defense is successful in a New Jersey criminal case, the ruling usually leads to the defendant being committed to a mental health institution. This may be an even longer sentence than jail time. However, if the defendant is not considered to be an active danger to others, they may be released under supervision, or even without supervision.

Camden Criminal Lawyers at The Law Offices of Michele Finizio Pursue Fair Trials for Clients Charged with Crimes in New Jersey

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in New Jersey, Camden criminal lawyers at the Law Offices of Michele Finizio can help you. With offices located in Moorestown, New Jersey, we represent clients in Burlington County, Camden County, and throughout New Jersey. Call us at 609-230-0374 for a free consultation or contact us online

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I could not have asked for a better attorney. Michele Finizio treated my cases and the cases of those I've recommended, as if we were part of her family.

-D.A.