Mental or Emotional State as a Defense in a Murder Case

Murder charges are rarely as cut-and-dry as they appear. Murder charges apply to people that plan and follow through with an action meant to take a life. Not every case meets this standard. Many incidents happen because the accused aggressor could not think clearly. It is not always a matter of whether someone committed the act, but the state of mind they were in when it took place.

Lifelong Mental Illness Concerns

The basic definition of criminal insanity means that an individual has a mental disability so extreme they cannot control their actions or do not understand right from wrong. Each state decides how they specifically define mental illness as a defense in a criminal trial. Illinois uses a modified version of the Model Penal Code Test.

The Model Penal Code Test requires the defendant (or their legal team) to prove that a mental defect made them unaware or unable to understand that their behavior was illegal. To prove mental illness in court, the defendant may need to show a prior diagnosis of mental illness, receive a diagnosis, or have a history of behavior that supports their claim.

Sudden Crime of PassionMan Contemplating Mental or Emotional State in Jail Cell

Crimes of passion occur when people are too emotionally charged to think about the repercussions of their actions. The term often arises when someone catches a spouse with a lover and immediately reacts with violence. Some that use the defense may receive an acquittal while others use it to reduce their murder charge to a lesser crime.

A crime of passion defense can only work when it happens with no premeditation. Someone that learns of a loved one’s betrayal and takes the time to buy a weapon, find the offending person, and commit the crime may not easily explain their actions as uncontrollable. In Illinois, the crime may meet the standard but could still result in a second-degree murder charge.

Immediate Defense of Life

Stand Your Ground laws in the United States justify deadly force when someone believes their life, or the life of someone else, was at stake at the time of the action. Illinois does not specifically have a Stand Your Ground law that allows people to avoid trial. The law allows people to claim deadly force as self-defence during a court trial.

Using self-defence only works if the lethal force used by someone happened at the time they were in danger. Success is less likely if the person reacted because they feared someone may do something at another time. It can also fail if the action the defendant took was not proportional to the threat they received.

Drug Use

Impairment because of intoxication does not instantly excuse anyone from committing a crime. The intoxication might lead to additional charges like a DUI or drug charge. An addiction to a substance also does not make the person less culpable.

A more accepted excuse is involuntary intoxication. A defendant may have a solid defense if they unknowingly committed a crime while under the influence of a drug they did not mean to take, like consuming a spiked food or beverage. Or if they were unaware that a prescribed drug would cause the side effects they suffered.

Anyone under the influence of a substance at the time of the crime should discuss the issue with their attorney. Arguments for the defendant that may help could include their prior lack of a criminal record, reported adverse side effects from a medication, and proof of someone drugging the individual without their knowledge.

People cannot always control their actions, and they may not believe they have the option of walking away. At Daniels, Long & Pinsel, LLC, we understand that life-changing events happen in an instant. We want to help. Contact us today to discuss your case.

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