Sanity Evaluations

Sanity Evaluations explore a defendant’s mental state at the time of the alleged offense.  An Insanity Defense is an affirmative defense whereby the defendant acknowledges having engaged in the offense, but argues lack of responsibility due to mental disease or defect.  Depending on the jurisdiction, an Insanity Defense implies a plea of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI), Guilty but Mentally Ill (GBMI), Guilty But Insane (GBI), or Not Guilty By Reason of Mental Disease or Defect.

Sanity Evaluations are also referred to as Insanity Evaluations, Mental State Evaluations, and Responsibility Evaluations (juvenile).  Sanity evaluations are conducted by doctoral level mental health professionals (i.e., Forensic psychologist (expert witness) or Forensic Psychiatrist) who have the training and experience required in the field.  Fox example, in order to conduct sanity examinations in the state of Texas, the Forensic psychologist (expert witness) or Forensic Psychiatrist is required to complete at least 24-hours of Texas-specific or particular forensic training relating to insanity evaluations (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, 46B.23).  Similarly, Florida statutes mandate that forensic evaluators undergo the training provided by the Department of Children and Family Services before conducting forensic evaluations for criminal or juvenile courts.

Depending on the jurisdiction, a forensic evaluator may or may not be required to give an opinion of the ultimate issue of sanity at the time of the offense.  For example, in Federal courts experts opine on the issue of competency to stand trial, but do not give opinions sanity issues.  Whether the expert gives an opinion or not, the ultimate decision is made by the trier of fact (i.e., Judge or Jury).

Insanity standards vary by jurisdiction, but there are some similarities.  Here are some examples:

U S Code Title 18 § 17 Insanity Defense: (a) Affirmative Defense: It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under any Federal statute that, at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts. Mental disease or defect does not otherwise constitute a defense. (b) Burden of Proof : The defendant has the burden of proving the defense of insanity by clear and convincing evidence.

Texas Penal Code 8.01.  Insanity: (a)  It is an affirmative defense to prosecution that, at the time of the conduct charged, the actor, as a result of severe mental disease or defect, did not know that his conduct was wrong.  (b)  The term “mental disease or defect” does not include an abnormality manifested only by repeated criminal or otherwise antisocial conduct. Sec. 8.04.  Intoxication (a)  Voluntary intoxication does not constitute a defense to the commission of crime.(b)  Evidence of temporary insanity caused by intoxication may be introduced by the actor in mitigation of the penalty attached to the offense for which he is being tried.(c)  When temporary insanity is relied upon as a defense and the evidence tends to show that such insanity was caused by intoxication, the court shall charge the jury in accordance with the provisions of this section. (d)  For purposes of this section “intoxication” means disturbance of mental or physical capacity resulting from the introduction of any substance into the body.

Texas Family Code 55.51.  Lack of Responsibility for conduct Determination. Examination:(a) A child alleged by petition to have engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision is not responsible for the conduct if at the time of the conduct, as a result of mental illness or mental retardation, the child lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the wrongfulness of the child’s conduct or to conform the child’s conduct to the requirements of law.  (b)  On a motion by a party in which it is alleged that a child may not be responsible as a result of mental illness or mental retardation for the child’s conduct, the court shall order the child to be examined under Section 51.20. The information obtained from the examinations must include expert opinion as to whether the child is not responsible for the child’s conduct as a result of mental illness or mental retardation.  (c)  The issue of whether the child is not responsible for the child’s conduct as a result of mental illness or mental retardation shall be tried to the court or jury in the adjudication hearing.  (d)  Lack of responsibility for conduct as a result of mental illness or mental retardation must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence.

The sanity evaluation includes a review of records, collateral interviews, and face-to-face examination.  Forensic psychologist (expert witness)s may also conduct psychological testing to assess for type and severity of mental illness, measure intelligence, and/or rule out malingering.

Based in South Florida, Florida Forensic Psychology conducts Sanity Evaluations in all of Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and other states.