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Mental Health and Criminal Defense

Nov. 9, 2021

An experienced attorney is necessary for anyone facing criminal charges, but it becomes especially important for those who may be experiencing a mental health condition. An unfortunate truth about our current justice system is that far too many people with mental health conditions are jailed and not given the care or resources they need. In Massachusetts, there are more than 2,000 incarcerated individuals who suffer from serious mental illnesses, and this costs the state $300 million a year. Sadly, many of these individuals did not get the legal representation they deserved. If you have a criminal charge against you but believe you have suffered or are currently suffering from a mental health condition, call McBride Law in Quincy, Massachusetts, to talk with someone who can help.

Common Mental Health Disorders

There are a number of disorders that your attorney can use in your defense. The most common are schizophrenia, depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, manic depressive disorder, anxiety, antisocial personality disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder. In all cases, both sides will normally call in expert witnesses and medical professionals to evaluate the defendant. Both the defense and prosecution are trying to determine how much the defendant’s condition affected their crime, as well as how it affects their chances of a fair trial.

Mental Health as a Defense

Using mental health as part of your defense is a complex process and requires a skilled criminal defense attorney with enough knowledge about these conditions to present it to the court. There are two main components of a mental health argument: criminal responsibility and competency.

Criminal responsibility refers to the defendant's state of mind when they actually committed the crime. When seeking to use a mental health defense in this regard, it must be proven that the defendant wasn’t aware what they were doing was wrong or that their mental condition impaired them enough that they didn’t know right from wrong. An attorney may bring in past mental health records and diagnoses or enlist an expert to review the evidence, evaluate the defendant, and then comment on the case.

Oftentimes, a criminal responsibility defense will result in a plea of insanity, commonly referred to as “not guilty by reason of insanity.” If successful, an insanity defense will defer jail time, but in most cases, the defendant will instead have to be admitted to a mental health facility.

Competency refers to the defendant’s state of mind during the court proceedings. A defendant’s competency to stand trial can be questioned if they're unable to adequately communicate with their legal counsel or if they’re unable to fully understand the charges being levied against them. It’s typically very difficult to prove a defendant is incompetent to stand trial, but if it’s done, the judge will usually delay the trial until they are deemed competent once again. In rare cases, a judge may throw out a case if the defendant remains incompetent for long enough, usually half the time of the proposed maximum sentence.

Working With an Experienced Attorney

Mental health defenses aren’t cut and dry. A knowledgeable attorney may be able to use a previous or current mental health condition to negotiate a reduced charge or lighter sentencing. Either way, you need someone with experience working with different clients with mental health conditions who knows how they can be leveraged to help your case. This is also why it’s essential to be honest and transparent with your attorney during consultations about any mental health struggles you’ve been through. The best attorney won’t be able to help you at all if they don’t have all the information.

Let McBride Law Help

If you’re in Quincy, Massachusetts, or anywhere else in the state, such as Boston, Norwell, Hingham, or Weymouth, call McBride Law today for a consultation. You need someone on your side who will listen to your experience, research your options, and tirelessly advocate for what’s best for you.