Young Woman Feeling Depressed Sitting Head in Hands

Mental Health and Criminal Defense

Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC March 21, 2023

State of mind is often used as a defense in a criminal charge. It is a legal construct that people should only be convicted of a criminal offense if they intentionally broke the law or did so by negligence or recklessness. This raises the question about a person’s mental health issues which could affect their judgment, intent, and comprehension of the law.   

Mental health status has always been a mitigating factor considered by prosecutors, judges, and juries in criminal cases. However, in 2021, Ohio became the first state to enact a law prohibiting the death penalty as punishment for the conviction of someone suffering from one of four serious mental illnesses at the time they committed the crime, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, and bipolar disorder.   

Used in a criminal defense strategy, mental health may not help you avoid a conviction, but it may help you get appropriate treatment for your disorder. The attorneys at Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC, firmly believe that treatment is what offenders with mental health issues deserve. They zealously defend their clients’ rights to that treatment. If you have been arrested for a crime in Columbus, Westerville, Dublin, Gahanna, Heath, Hilliard, Lancaster, Delaware, Newark, Granville, Powell, Louis Center, or Pickerington, Ohio, or in other communities in Delaware, Fairfield, and Licking counties, contact the reliable criminal defense attorneys today.   

What Are Common Mental Health Disorders Used in Criminal Defense? 

The four mental health disorders relevant to the death penalty prohibition law are the most serious. However, there are several others that may be used in criminal defense, including:  

  • Anxiety disorder 

  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)  

  • Autism spectrum disorder  

  • Borderline personality disorder 

  • Depression  

  • Dissociative disorders 

  • Eating disorders 

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) 

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 

  • Psychosis  

Dual diagnoses are mental health disorders combined with a substance abuse disorder, such as drug addiction or alcohol addiction.   

Can Mental Health Be a Defense for Committing a Crime? 

Criminal responsibility is a vital component of the prosecution’s case. Did the person intentionally break the law? Were they negligent? Did they behave recklessly, with willful disregard for others? Those are the factors that determine criminal responsibility.   

Ignorance of the law is no defense. However, the burden of these factors is why someone acting in self-defense may not face criminal charges. Proof of such things as intoxication, duress, and yes, mental competency and status may contribute to a criminal responsibility defense. That is if your attorney can offer proof that a mental issue affected your actions during the commission of the crime.   

The insanity defense is often referred to as the “excuse defense.” The defendant admits to committing the crime but claims a lack of accountability due to a mental defect or illness. Just as there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, there is a presumption that the defendant is sane. Insanity at the time of the commission of the crime must be medically proven.  

Competency is a separate but related issue. The requirement that someone has the mental capacity to understand what is happening during trial is a constitutional right. Mental competency to stand trial is based on the defendant’s status at the time of the trial, rather than at the time the crime was committed.   

What Does it Take to Prove a Mental Health Defense? 

Proving a mental health claim is challenging. It requires evaluation by qualified licensed medical and mental health professionals. Those professionals determine the grounds whether the person that committed the crime holds criminal responsibility, as well as competency to stand trial.   

In most cases, defendants are evaluated by professionals hired by their attorneys, as well as those hired by the prosecution. Despite the challenging process, if you have a mental health issue that affected your actions then or your competency now, it is well worth the effort. A finding can result in having a criminal charge dismissed or a finding of not guilty. If convicted of the crime, mental health should be a mitigating factor in the penalties you face. This could include appropriate treatment for the diagnosed disorders in lieu of or in addition to incarceration. Court-ordered treatment may be voluntary or involuntary, inpatient or outpatient.   

How Does a Mental Health Issue Affect Sentencing? 

Ohio law guarantees the right of all inmates in correctional facilities to receive appropriate medical, dental, and mental health services. It is a sentencing right of prisoners with mental health disorders to receive a full mental health evaluation upon admission, crisis, and suicide prevention care if needed, individual and group psychotherapy and other programming, residential care if warranted, and psychiatric hospitalization if indicated.   

Understand Your Rights and Protect Your Future 

If you believe a mental health issue, diagnosed or undiagnosed, affected your behavior that resulted in the commission of a crime, you need to explore a mental health defense. The standard for proof of this defense is high and requires a skilled criminal defense attorney who has represented clients like you previously. The attorneys at Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC won't don’t back down.  

Contact the Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC, today to discuss a mental health defense. This will take time, so make that call now.