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What are the pros and cons of an insanity defense?

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Quick Answer

A successfully argued insanity plea in a criminal defense can lead to a release of criminal liability, but it also likely includes being committed to a psychiatric hospital, explains LawInfo. By using this plea, the defendant is stating he was insane at the time the crime was committed.

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Full Answer

By pleading insanity, the defendant is claiming he was unable to distinguish between right and wrong or unable to control his behavior at the time of the crime. However, there is only one-quarter of a 1 percent success rate for using the insanity plea in the United States, according to LawInfo. There are some jurisdictions that have abolished its use altogether. If these cases are allowed, they are rarely successful because a judge or jury must conclude insanity in addition to the testimony given by a psychiatrist.

Following the judgment of insanity, commitment to a psychiatric hospital is generally not for a set amount of time; the defendant is released when he is no longer deemed a threat to society, notes LawInfo. The plea of temporary insanity states the person was insane at the time of committing the crime but is presently sane. This defense is difficult to prove. The use of the insanity plea allows for a moral check within the legal system because it can focus on treatment rather than punishment.

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