The History of the M'Naghten Rule
Under the M'Naghten Rules, some criminally insane persons are exempt from legal punishment. These are a set of rules established in the 1800s after an attempt was made by Daniel M'Naghten to assassinate the British Prime Minister. The controversial assassination attempt led to the formation of a defense panel which ultimately established a set of legal guidelines to be used when a criminal case involves the questioning of a defendant's sanity at the time that the illegal behavior was committed. Questions of mental health, as they pertain to criminal defense cases, still rely upon the set of governances predicated during the trial. During a M'Naghten trial, the court determines whether or not the defendant understood his/her actions and knew that they were wrong.
By deciding these two factors, a jury trial should be able to determine the sanity (or lack thereof) of a defendant. Sanity hearings such as the M'Naghten trials begin with a presumption of sanity and rely on the defendant to prove their mental incapacitation. It must be established legally - not medically - that the person on trial suffers from a disease of the mind in which malfunctioning could lead to abnormal behaviors. Assuming that the defendant did not comprehend the immorality of their behaviors, the quality of the act (and its physical nature) will also be assessed. Different punishments may result from an insane attempt vs. a partially insane attempt. It should also be noted that crimes without specific intent such as DUI do not generally classify as crimes of insanity.
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No defendant can be released from responsibility of a criminal offense under a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity unless at least two medical practitioners can attest with oral or written evidence to the defendant's lack of sanity. With the right defense lineup on your side, including a Southern California mental health lawyer from Lessem & Newstat, LLP your chances of obtaining a not guilty verdict could greatly increase. If your criminal case has been taken to the mental health courts under suspicion of mental insanity, you will need an aggressive defense lawyer on your side. Whether you end up in the Ventura Mental Health Court or Department 95 in Los Angeles, an attorney from our firm can skillfully attend to your case. Together, our team has more than 80 years of courtroom experience and over 200 jury trials to our name. We have successfully contributed to the dismissal of hundreds of cases throughout Orange County, Ventura, and areas throughout the southern part of the state
Contact a Southern California mental health attorney to learn more about the M'Naghten Rules and how they can be put to use in the defense of your case.
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