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Insanity Defense

Insanity Defense

The insanity defense (“not guilty by reason of insanity”) is used in criminal cases and is based on the principle that a person charged with a crime is too impaired due to mental illness to be held criminally responsible for their actions. People who are found not guilty by reason of insanity are usually committed to secure mental health treatment facilities for indefinite periods of time. The benefit of successful insanity pleas is that people are sentenced to treatment instead of incarceration in prisons. However, the insanity defense often results in long term institutional placements that can be longer than prison sentences resulting from guilty verdicts.

Where NAMI Stands

NAMI supports retaining the insanity defense in appropriate cases. Standards for determining whether someone meets the criteria for insanity should be based on the current scientific knowledge about mental illness. For example, these standards should take into consideration not just the person’s understanding of the crime, but also the impact that symptoms of their mental illness, such as delusions or hallucinations, may have had on their actions.

NAMI believes that juries should be informed as the consequences of each verdict as they apply specifically to defendants with mental illness. Jurors should understand that a verdict “not guilty by reason of mental illness” does not result in the defendant being immediately released to once again pose a danger to society.

A number of states have adopted “guilty but mentally ill” statutes. NAMI opposes the use guilty but mentally ill in criminal cases. Although this verdict acknowledges the existence of mental illness, it does not lessen the penalty or reduce the sentence that is imposed.

What NAMI is doing

NAMI advises and provides technical assistance to NAMI State Organizations and Affiliates on a range of issues pertaining to the insanity defense. We have participated in task forces, worked with the media and written articles on the subject.

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Become a Member

Join NAMI Bucks County and join a movement to inspire better lives for NAMI Bucks Countyns who are affected by mental illness. With membership, you’ll receive newsletters and updates on mental health news, you’ll be able to engage in discussion groups, and you’ll have the opportunity to support others who are affected by mental illness financially and emotionally.

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If you’re not ready to become a member but still would like to support NAMI Bucks County, we welcome and appreciate donations of any value. You'll be supporting others who are affected by mental illness financially and emotionally.

Get In Touch

The families and members of NAMI Bucks County are here to help! We offer understanding to anyone concerned about mental illnesses and the treatment of mental illness. There’s a community here for you, and we’re here to help you however you need it. You will be so very glad that you did!