The greatest advantage of the insanity defense is that it may allow the defendant to escape the severest penalties of prosecution in favor of a more lenient alternatives. In some cases, the defendant may even be offered treatment in lieu of punishment.
In cases where it can be substantiated that a defendant suffers from severe mental incapacity or illness, most court systems recognize that alternative solutions are necessary when trying him. In the most extreme cases, such as those pertaining to murder trials, a determination of insanity is likely sufficient to remove the possibility for capital punishment, or the death penalty. In some cases, an insanity defense may result in no jail time whatsoever. The defendant may be remanded after trial to the care of a mental health facility for a specific duration, occasionally with the possibility of freedom existing after significant recovery is observed.
The most successful bids for an insanity defense often involve people who have some record or past history of mental illness. Otherwise, it usually proves to be significantly more difficult to convince a court of this avenue of defense. Those wishing to plead insanity are customarily first subjected to an intensive mental evaluation. Afterward, mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists or psychologists, testify as to the condition of the defendant. As insanity pronouncements during trials are considered an issue of criminal determination, it is the judge, rather than the health professionals, who ultimately determines the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the claim.