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Understanding the insanity defense in Illinois

Defending against criminal accusations can be extraordinarily complicated. However, with thorough understanding of state and federal laws -- or representation by an attorney with this knowledge -- it is certainly possible to craft an effective defense. 

One potential defense that may be successful is the insanity defense. While it is obviously not appropriate in all cases, the insanity defense can be quite effective if the person accused of criminal misconduct is determined to be legally insane at the time of his or her involvement in a crime.

There are several different ways that insanity can be tested, and every state that allows the insanity defense uses certain tests and rules to determine whether a person is legally insane. In Illinois, a modification of one rule -- the Model Penal Code test-- is used. 

Like the other tests, the MPC test is used to measure a person's mental state at the time a crime was committed. According to FindLaw.com, if the results of this evaluation reveal that a person was either unable to determine that certain conduct was illegal or could not conform his or her "conduct to the requirements of the law" due to mental defect, a court could rule that the person is not guilty by reason of insanity.

Simply arguing that a person fit this criterion at the time of an offense will not be enough to back up an insanity defense. A person claiming insanity must be observed and diagnosed with a mental defect or illness by a medical professional. Additional evidence of a person's mental health is typically required as well.

Considering how complicated it is to build an insanity defense and how high the stakes of a conviction can be when someone is facing serious criminal charges, it may be in a person's best interests to discuss specific cases with an attorney. Even if an insanity defense is not appropriate, there are several other defense strategies that can be effective.

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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