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Criminal defenses: insanity of mental disorder

The idea of using a plea of insanity as a legal defense in a criminal case is not new. The penal code written in France more than 200 years ago said,in part,”There has been no offense is the accused person was insane or was compelled by a force they could not resist”. So,what do they mean by “a force they could not resist”? It could be interpreted as meaning drug addiction. Suppose a man is addicted to drugs,so he robs a bank to get money so he can buy more drugs. His addiction compelled him to rob the bank. This concept laid the foundation for methadone treatment programs because it implied that drug addicts were not really guilty of a crime,they were compelled to commit criminal acts by the drugs they took. So,today a judge may order a drug addict to participate in a methadone treatment program,instead of sending him to prison.

Although a drug addict may be compelled by his addiction,the legal concept of insanity does not require the attorney to prove that mental illness compelled the insane person to do anything. The idea that mental illness compels you to do something is not a valid legal concept. It’s like saying a rapist was compelled by his own sexual desires,so he had to rape a woman. Rape is not legally justified even if you claim your sexual desired were overwhelming. It could be demonstrated that millions of men experience sexual desires,but they don’t go out and rape women. What we’re really talking about here is diminished capacity. The court has to consider the mental capacity of the accused person. Did he have enough metal capacity to form the intent to commit a criminal act?

Mental capacity means intelligence. It’s not a measure of morality. Often,people say that mental capacity means the capacity means tell the difference between right and wrong. That standard implies the capacity to make a moral decision. Is it morally right or morally wrong to rape a woman? Is it morally right or morally wrong to rob a bank? Mental capacity as a legal standard does not require any expression of morality,or any understanding of morality. The standard is based on a person’s capacity to understand whether the act is illegal or not. So,if you understand it’s illegal to rape a woman,or it’s illegal to rob a bank,you are not insane,according to this legal standard.

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