Guilty Except Insane: The Insanity Plea in Arizona § 13-502

You’ve likely heard about court cases where the charged individual pleads not guilty by reason of insanity. This tactic is used when an individual suffers from a mental illness or defect that can dramatically impact their ability to think and reason like the average person, which contributed to the crime they are accused of committing. While some individuals have used this plea falsely in an attempt to get out of their charges and obtain a lighter sentence, there are those who legitimately should file this type of plea. Under Arizona Statute 13-502, the guidelines for when an individual can use this plea are laid out in detail.

What Doesn’t Apply

Pleading guilty except insane is designed to help those who suffer from a mental illness at the time the crime was committed. It does not apply to individuals who suffered from a short-term mental health issue as the result of intoxication or another impairment that is due to their own actions, including withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, psychosexual disorders, impulse control disorders or defects in their character. It also doesn’t include temporary conditions, such as fits of jealousy, hatred, anger, passion, moral decadence or other similar circumstances. In these situations, the individual is not deemed to have a mental defect and therefore can’t make this plea.

An Insanity Plea Doesn’t Equal No Consequences

Some individuals are under the false impression pleading guilty except insane is an easy way out. It likely means no jail time and can greatly reduce the consequences of the actions. However, this doesn’t mean the court can’t still issue a sentence that better fits the kind of circumstances an individual suffering from a mental issue would require. For instance, in situations where an individual was seriously hurt or killed or there was a threat of this nature, if the defendant is found by the court to suffer from a qualifying mental illness or defect, they can be sentenced to time in a state mental health facility instead. This means the individual won’t go free, but instead of going to jail, they will have access to the mental health care they need to get better. At this time, experts in the field will evaluate the individual and make recommendations regarding their future. Unless the defendant is deemed indigent by the court, they are expected to pay for this evaluation. In some situations, an independent expert may be used, rather than a state facility, and the same rules apply.

Make Your Case

Just because a mental health expert deems an individual mentally insane under this plea doesn’t mean you don’t have to make your case. This is why it’s important to hire a qualified attorney with the experience necessary to handle this type of case. They will be able to go over the evidence, as well as the report put together by the experts, and help you build your case so you can submit your insanity plea and get the best outcome possible for your case. Without the help of experienced attorneys, it may be difficult to prove your case, which can lead to your insanity plea being thrown out, even if there is a valid reason to believe you committed the crime while not in the proper state of mind. Whether this plea is accepted can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of your case, meaning the difference in getting the help you need to become a more productive member of society and finding yourself incarcerated and spending time in the state jail where you won’t get the extensive mental health care your condition requires. It’s important to note if you are deemed guilty except insane, this is not the same as a typical conviction and is dealt with differently.

When you’re facing charges for a crime, there are options when it comes to your representation. If you feel you suffer from a mental illness or mental defect that falls under the protection of Arizona Statute 13-502, it’s important to make sure you talk to a lawyer who has experience in this area. We can help you determine if this is the right path for your case and if so, guide you through the process so you aren’t facing this complex situation on your own. In these instances, experience is vital to your success.

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