When a party successfully defends criminal charges on a ground of insanity, the consequences vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Usually, the defendant is committed to a mental institution. On the average, a defendant found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a mental institution is confined for twice as long as is a defendant who is found guilty and sent to prison. Very few acquitted insanity defendants are given supervised release, and even fewer are released directly following their verdict.
The detention of an insanity acquittee is limited by law. The acquittee must be allowed periodic review in the mental institution, to determine whether continued treatment is necessary. In addition, a hospital facility may not hold an insanity acquittee indefinitely merely because the acquittee has an antisocial personality (Foucha v. Louisiana, 504 U.S. 71, 112 S. Ct. 1780, 118 L. Ed. 2d 437 ).
The procedural framework in Massachusetts illustrates the consequences that come with the insanity defense. Under chapter 123, section 16, of the Massachusetts General Laws Annotated, the court may order a person found not guilty by reason of insanity (an insanity acquittee) to be hospitalized for 40 days for observation and examination. During this period, the district attorney or the superintendent of the mental hospital may petition the court to have the insanity acquittee committed to the hospital. If the judge orders the commitment, the acquittee is placed in the hospital for six months.
After the first six months have expired, the commitment is reviewed again, and then once a year thereafter. If the superintendent of the mental health facility moves to discharge the acquittee, the district attorney must respond with any objections within 30 days of notice from the superintendent. The mental health facility is authorized to restrict the movement of criminal defendants and insanity acquittees, so a commitment is tantamount to incarceration.
- Insanity Defense - Defendants' Rights
- Insanity Defense - Is There A Need For The Insanity Defense?
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