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How viable is an insanity defense against criminal charges?

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2024 | Criminal Defense

If you are accused of a crime, can you claim you were insane or not in the right state of mind at the time of committing the offense and did not know what you were doing? The short answer is yes. In Maryland, this is known as a plea of not criminally responsible, and while rare, it is legally allowed under certain circumstances.

An insanity defense means admitting to committing the offense in question but arguing that you should not be held criminally liable because you did not understand that what you did was wrong or were unable to act according to the law due to your mental condition at the time of the crime.

The burden of proof is on you

It is up to you to prove your insanity when you rely on a plea of not criminally responsible. You typically need to show that you were insane at the time of the crime, either by proving it’s more likely than not (preponderance of evidence) or by providing clear and convincing evidence.

Remember, your testimony alone may not be enough. There must be medical evidence supporting your mental condition or state of mind when committing the crime. Even then, it is up to the jury to decide whether or not you knew or did not know the wrongness of your actions.

As to the viability of an insanity defense, it is not a common or easy way to avoid criminal liability due to the difficulty in proving legal insanity. Very few cases result in a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. This reality underscores the need for seeking legal guidance to get a tailored defense approach based on the specific circumstances of your case.