New York Defenses Involving Mental Illness

Recently, the online forum, Above the Law, discussed what typically happens when an individual has an unexpected psychotic episode resulting in criminal charges. Defendants have the option of invoking what is colloquially called an “insanity defense.” In New York, it is an affirmative defense, asserting that the defendant was “not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect.” With this defense, the case may go to the New York Mental Health and Hygiene Department, or be retained in the regular criminal court system.

One misunderstanding many people have about a crime committed by someone who has an unexpected and first-time episode, is that because the individual has no criminal history and comes from a good background, they can side-step the criminal justice system. This is not true, and generally, a case involving mental illness can be much more complex and lengthy. Background and prior criminal history will be considered as factors when determining bail, but the actual charges will be the main focus.

Another fact many do not know is that in New York, the mental-health courts do not accept every case. Individuals charged with violent crimes are excluded and must go through the regular court system. The timing of the case is also dependent on the individual’s state of mind, regardless of which court the defendant’s matter is before. If the individual’s mental illness is severe at the time of the arrest, he or she will be detained in a psychiatric hospital until stable enough to be arraigned.

It is of the utmost importance for an individual charged with a crime caused by their mental illness to seek the professional advice of an experienced attorney. The complexity of this affirmative defense requires legal skill and knowledge. If you or your loved one has been arrested, contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Leventhal Law Group at (718) 556-9600. The firm’s attorneys are trusted to work hard in order to get the most favorable results for their clients.

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