Law Offices of Jess C. Bedore III - Certified Specialist in Criminal Law
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The insanity defense, and why it is rare to see

You've probably heard the old saying that a criminal has the ability to make an "insanity plea," or, more correctly, to be found "not guilty by reason of insanity." This is often portrayed as something that is easily attainable, as if anyone could make an insanity plea and they would have a good chance of obtaining it.

However, that is far from the case. Pleading insanity is relatively rare in the first place, but it is even rarer to see someone found not guilty by reason of insanity. The reason for this is that the threshold to prove an insanity plea is set very high. There was a recent case where a woman was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

A 27-year-old woman bit off part of her 10-month-old son's ear, and was accused of malicious wounding. But a judge ruled her not guilty by reason of insanity. Her lawyer argued that since the woman recently gave birth, she was suffering from postpartum depression. This made her legally insane, and the judge agreed.

Now again, we must emphasize how rare this is. In order to establish that someone was legally insane when they committed a criminal act, it must be clearly proven that the individual was unable to differentiate between right and wrong. This is just one of many ways that states -- whose laws vary on insanity pleas -- determine if someone was legally insane at the time of a crime. Still these pleas, from time to time, can be successful.

Source:, "When does 'Not guilty by reason of insanity' apply?," Scott Daugherty, Oct. 25, 2014

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