Mental Health Defense
Denver Criminal Attorney Uses Mental Health Defenses to Protect Clients
Colorado lawyer protects the rights of the mentally ill who have been accused of a crime
Television and movies have a tendency to give people the wrong idea about what it means to be legally insane or incompetent to stand trial. The public often thinks of insanity as a way to avoid responsibility for a crime. In truth, these are procedures the state has created to make sure that only those who understood their actions can be held accountable, and that no one has to face a trial they are not capable of understanding. Attorney Patrick J. Mulligan of Mulligan Breit, LLC has successfully litigated the affirmative defense of “not guilty by reason of insanity” (NGRI) for clients, even those with no previously diagnosed mental health problems.
Defendants must be capable of defending themselves at trial
Colorado law guarantees the right to a fair trial, which means that a person can’t be tried, sentenced or executed if that person is incompetent to participate in the proceedings. A person will be considered incompetent to proceed if they cannot assist in their own defense or if they are not capable of understanding the judicial process. A judge makes a ruling about a defendant’s competency, but either side can request a hearing and present evidence.
If someone is not competent to stand trial, the court will order the defendant either to enter treatment in the community, or to be held in a mental institution until they are capable of assisting in their own defense. This means that a finding of incompetence does not set a defendant free or prevent a trial. The trial is simply delayed indefinitely until the defendant is able to participate. Criminal defense attorney Patrick J. Mulligan recognizes potential psychological disorders in his clients and uses connections with mental health professionals to help establish whether the client is able to stand trial. He works to ensure the trial process is fair to those with psychological disorders.
Someone who doesn’t understand their actions isn’t a criminal
Insanity is a legal term that means that, at the time of the act in question, a defendant was suffering from a mental disease or defect that made them incapable of understanding whether that act was right or wrong. It doesn’t mean that someone was angry, hateful or even depraved, but rather that they were not able to form mental state required to be culpable for an act. Not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) exists as a defense in criminal cases because the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that each element of a crime was committed with a required degree of mental culpability. A successful NGRI defense will show that a mental condition grossly impaired the defendant’s understanding of reality or his ability to form the required mental state. The voluntary ingestion of alcohol or drugs is not a defense.
How will the court determine whether a defendant was sane?
A defendant who raises this defense or has it raised by his or her attorney will undergo a sanity exam. This requires doctors to examine the defendant and to evaluate the defendant’s statements, medical history and the circumstances of the alleged crime to create a report. Doctors such as forensic psychologists, neurological psychologists and psychiatrists may evaluate the defendant. Each doctor’s sanity evaluation report will include the diagnosis and prognosis of the accused as well as the doctor’s opinion on whether the defendant was sane at the time the action took place.
If a mental illness defense is raised, the prosecution has the burden of proving sanity. Attorney Patrick J. Mulligan has experience litigating this issue, and has succeeded in securing a number of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity verdicts.
The insanity defense is not a “get out of jail free card.” When a court finds that a defendant was not sane, the defendant will be committed to a mental institution until he or she is restored to sanity.
Retain an experienced attorney who has successfully used mental health defenses
If you or someone you love were suffering from a mental illness at the time of an alleged criminal act, Mulligan Breit, LLC will build a strong defense against your prosecution. Patrick J. Mulligan will make sure you understand what is happening in your case, and if you can’t, he will work with doctors to show the court that you are not fit to stand trial. Patrick is one of Colorado’s most experienced lawyers in the litigation of the insanity defense, and frequently works with mental health professionals to ensure that his clients are treated fairly in the judicial process. Call him now at 303.295.1500 or contact our firm online for immediate, dedicated representation.