The Defense of Insanity in Texas

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A defense of insanity is a difficult defense to prove, and it is only advantageous in highly specific circumstances. When appropriate, however, a defense of insanity can be highly effective and useful. While it is unlikely that you will ever use an insanity defense, better understanding the defense can increase clarity in relation to other available defenses.

The Definition

In order for the defense of insanity to apply, the defendant must admit to having committed the crime in question but must maintain that, because of his or her severe mental disease or defect, he or she did not recognize that the conduct in question was wrong (which for this defense means illegal). In this context, the severe mental disease or defect cannot be an abnormality that is manifested solely by the defendant’s repeated criminal actions. Ultimately, the defense of not guilty by reason of insanity – if accepted by the jury – absolves the defendant of criminal responsibility for the charge brought against him or her during the period that he or she suffered the severe mental disease or defect. (Charged with a Crime? Consider the Following FAQ)

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

While a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) means that the defendant is not found guilty, this is not where the matter ends. After an NGRI finding, a defendant generally receives mental health treatment for a period that does not exceed the maximum sentence that he or she could have received had he or she been found guilty. If the charge is murder (which insanity claims are often reserved for), this can, however, mean a sentence of life. (Murder vs. Manslaughter Charges)

Insanity: The Nitty Gritty

In the State of Texas, the following apply to insanity defenses:

  • The defendant is presumed sane and to have intended the natural consequences of the crime he or she is accused of.

  • The defendant must prove the affirmative defense of insanity by a preponderance of the evidence

  • If the defense prevails, it excuses the defendant’s criminal responsibility for the charge (though the offense itself is proven beyond a reasonable doubt)

An NGRI Defense Changes Things

When a defendant moves forward with an NGRI, it means his or her defense attorneys are curtailed by all of the following parameters:

  • They cannot offer unexpected evidence that arises as the case progresses.

  • They must file a notice of intent to use the defense at least 20 days before the trial date is set (or at the pretrial hearing).

  • They give up the right to reserve their opening statement.

All told, an NGRI defense is a challenging defense to carry off, but when it is applicable, it can be an important defense strategy.

You Need an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney on Your Side

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a resourceful criminal defense attorney whose practice focuses on guiding cases like yours toward optimal outcomes. To learn more about how we can help you, please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.


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