Mental Health and Criminal Law, Part One.

The criminal justice system has a very bright line rule about mental health and criminal responsibility.  As long as crime has been around, the defense of not guilty by reason of insanity has been available for those who meet the strict requirements found in the law.  Virginia follows the M’Naughten Rule for the insanity defense.   To qualify for the insanity defense, a person must have a mental illness that makes it so they cannot appreciate the wrongfulness of their act, or the mental illness caused them to act upon an irresistible impulse.

If a person is found not guilty by reason of insanity, they are sent to the Department of Behavioral Health for an evaluation.  This evaluation can be done outpatient if appropriate, or the acquittee is sent to a state hospital for evaluation.  The Court can either order the conditional release of the person or commit them to the state hospital for an indeterminate period of time.

If a person is released to the community, they are given conditions to comply with to address their mental health issues.  Whether the person is committed to the hospital or placed in the community, the case is reviewed by the Court on a yearly basis.  A person who is committed to the state hospital can be released once the treating doctors believe they have progressed enough to remain safe in the community.

The legal defense of insanity is a very technical defense and requires a skilled criminal defense attorney.  If you or a loved one are facing a criminal charge and you believe this may apply, or you would like skilled representation in a review hearing, call the criminal defense attorney’s at Winslow, McCurry, & MacCormac at 804-423-1382.