The insanity defense in Florida

| May 11, 2020 | Felonies |

If a criminal defendant in Florida has a severe mental illness, the court may rule that they are not guilty by reason of insanity. Though our society’s understanding of mental illness has improved a lot in recent decades, Florida’s law regarding mental illness and intent in criminal law is rooted in 19th-century British law. Thus, proving that a defendant cannot be held responsible for their actions due to their mental condition at the time can be difficult in this state.

The insanity defense test in Florida

The traditional rule for the insanity defense, which is still used today in Florida, is called the M’Naghten Rule. It places the burden on the defendant to prove they were mentally ill at the time of the crime. They must show they were so severely incapacitated that they could not distinguish right from wrong, or else was not aware of what they were doing.

The M’Naghten Rule is considered to be the toughest test for mental incapacity in criminal law, though a handful of states have eliminated the insanity defense entirely. This is one reason why it is not commonly raised as an affirmative defense, or a defense that negates liability even if the prosecution can prove its case against the defendant. However, it is possible to prove that a person’s mental illness caused them to commit a crime against the person’s actual intent.

Using every possible tool in your defense

If you have been charged with a felony in Florida, your lawyer should consider every possible option for your defense. Prosecutors and judges have a lot of power. Your defense could require every possible resource available in the state’s criminal procedure laws. Your rights are worth it.