How Are Mental Health Issues Handled in Colorado Criminal Trials?
Mental health issues affect thousands of people in Colorado, and sometimes, a mental illness causes criminal behavior. If you are charged with a crime in this state, the first thing you must do is obtain legal advice and representation from a Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney.
While everyone has heard of the insanity defense in criminal trials, insanity is not the only psychological condition that may affect a criminal defendant’s defense strategy. A defendant may struggle with one of several psychological conditions that can influence criminal behavior.
Using a mental health condition as a criminal defense is risky. It is an admission that a defendant in fact committed the criminal act that he or she is accused of, and if the state has evidence that a defendant is using a mental health condition as an excuse for a crime, it’s a defense that may fail.
Does Mental Illness Cause Criminality?
Mental illness rarely causes a person to become a criminal. The majority of those who struggle with a mental illness are able to lead productive, law-abiding lives. Crime is almost never caused solely by a mental illness but is usually the result of multiple psychological and social factors.
However, several particular mental health conditions do increase the risk that a person will commit a crime. A number of identifiable psychological conditions may be the cause or the partial cause of someone’s criminal behavior, including:
- Psychosis or insanity: A person who is insane either cannot manage his or her affairs, cannot fully distinguish fantasy from reality, or is subject to irrepressible, impulsive conduct.
- Antisocial personality disorder: A person who has an antisocial personality disorder (also called “sociopathy”) consistently ignores or violates the dignity and rights of others and has no regard for the basic concept of right and wrong.
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A person may suffer PTSD after an event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury. The person may re-experience the event, avoid reminders of it, or be constantly “hyper-vigilant” to prevent a recurrence.
- Long-term substance use disorder: The leading mental illness associated with criminal behavior is long-term substance use disorder, which usually means long-term drug or alcohol abuse or addiction.
Other psychological conditions that may be a factor in someone’s criminal behavior include but are not limited to depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Mental Illness as a Criminal Defense
In the State of Colorado, mental illness may be used as a criminal defense. In such cases, the defendant and his or her attorney must offer evidence indicating that the defendant didn’t have the mental capacity to understand the ramifications or nature of his or her criminal behavior.
If you’re charged with a crime and you claim mental illness as your own defense, your Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer must demonstrate that you were suffering from the illness at the time of the crime, and it prevented you from understanding the wrongfulness of your action.
If you struggle with a mental illness and you are placed under arrest for a crime in Colorado, ask – as quickly as possible – a Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney to review the details of the charge against you, to determine if you can offer mental illness as a defense, and to help you consider other possible defense strategies.
Which Specific Defense Strategies Involve Mental Illness?
In a Colorado criminal proceeding, if the defendant is struggling with a mental illness, a defense attorney may offer one of these three mental health-related criminal defenses:
- Insanity: A defendant may use the insanity defense if a mental health condition prevented the defendant from knowing right from wrong or from understanding the nature of his or her actions. In Colorado, a psychiatric evaluation is required in order to offer this defense.
- Diminished capacity: This defense may be used if a mental condition prevented the defendant from forming the intent required for the crime. For instance, if a murder defendant was incapable of premeditation, the charge may be reduced to manslaughter.
- Competency: A competency defense may be offered if a defendant can’t understand the charges or assist the defense. A defendant deemed incompetent to stand trial may be ordered by a court to receive treatment until such time as he or she is deemed competent.
How Will Your Attorney Handle Your Case?
In order to convict you of a criminal charge in Colorado, the state must prove two claims beyond a reasonable doubt. It must prove that you in fact committed the crime you are charged with committing, and it also must prove that you had criminal intent when you committed the crime.
A defendant who struggles with a mental illness may have had no criminal intent. Your attorney will need to review all of your medical records, and your attorney may also ask your own doctor and/or a mental health expert to provide a statement or testimony that supports your defense.
If you struggle with mental illness and you are accused of a crime in this state, it is also possible that you are entirely innocent of the charge. If you did not commit the crime you are charged with, that is the first thing you must tell your Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer.
Why Should You Choose Joyner Law?
When you are charged with a crime, your rights matter. Colorado Springs attorney John Joyner leads a team of criminal defense attorneys who are committed to providing their clients with an aggressive, effective legal defense and bringing every case to its best possible conclusion.
If you are facing a criminal charge in Colorado, you must consult a defense attorney at once. If you are dealing with a mental health problem, an attorney at Joyner Law will describe your condition to the court.
If you committed no crime, your defense attorney will work to have the case against you dismissed. And if your case goes to trial, your defense attorney will explain to the jurors why they should find you not guilty.
If you are arrested for a crime anywhere in or near the Colorado Springs area, contact the award-winning team at Joyner Law at your very first opportunity by calling 719-294-0566 – anytime, day or night – to schedule your first legal consultation without any cost or obligation.