Across the United States, two million people with mental illnesses are jailed each year, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness. While some of these people have been jailed for crimes unrelated to their mental illness, others are behind bars because their mental challenges caused behaviors that led to their arrest.
If you have a mental illness that gave rise to behavior that falls outside the law, you should consult an Indiana criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A diagnosable mental illness alone will not excuse your behavior. Below, we examine the two possible outcomes if you’re arrested for actions that caused by your mental issues.
The Insanity Defense
In Indiana, criminal defendants with mental challenges may avoid legal responsibility for their actions only if they can prove that they were “insane” at the time of the crime was committed. Indiana law provides that in such cases, the defense must show that they 1) have a diagnosed mental illness that grossly and demonstrably impairs their perception, and 2) the psychological problem prevented them from understanding the wrongness of their action at the time of the alleged crime.
The defense must prove these facts by a preponderance of the evidence, which means that the evidence shows that it’s more likely than not that the defendant’s claim is true. If the defense is successful with this claim, the jury may acquit the defendant. The defendant will receive treatment for their mental illness and, once successfully, treated, will be released to society. For this reason, acquittals by reason of insanity are extremely rare.
Guilty but Mentally Ill
More often, juries will find a defendant whose mental challenges contributed to the crime to be “guilty but mentally ill.” Under this statute, the jury may acknowledge the defendant’s mental challenges but find that such problems didn’t eliminate the defendant’s ability to understand the wrongness of their actions. In such cases, the judge will sentence the defendant like any other, but the defendant will receive proper treatment for the mental illness while serving their term in prison or on probation.
Of course, it’s also possible for a jury or judge to find defendants with psychological challenges to be “guilty” or “not guilty” of a crime, regardless of their mental issues. In those cases, they will be treated like any other defendant in similar circumstances.