What does it mean to plead insanity?

For people in West Virginia facing criminal charges, a plea of insanity is one type of criminal defense that may be utilized. While many people are aware of this legal tactic, the actual process is often misunderstood. An insanity plea involves many different factors, and requires the assistance of a skilled attorney with a comprehensive understanding of the law.

According to Psychology Today, there is a difference between the legal and medical definition of insanity. Each state has its own legal definition of insanity, but in general there are three rules that can be applied in order for an individual to be considered legally insane. The Model Penal Colony Rule stipulates that a person can be considered legally insane if they lack an understanding of why their conduct is criminal or are unable to understand what is required by law.

There is also the M'Naghten rule, which was first created in England in 1800s. In this case, a person must be considered so “deranged” that he or she was unaware of the criminal nature of illegal actions, or were unaware that those actions were illegal in the first place. This rule is only applied in select states, so it may not be applicable in all situations.

There is also the Durham Rule, which states that legal insanity entails a crime that results because of one’s mental illness. This removes an aspect of the M'Naghten rule in the sense that a person doesn’t need to be oblivious to the criminality of his or her actions. This rule is only applied in the state of New Hampshire. 

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