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Charles County Criminal Defense: Is Insanity Really a Possible Defense?

Yes, in Maryland, it is possible to claim insanity as a possible defense to a criminal charge. In Maryland, the “insanity defense” is called a plea of “not criminally responsible.”

The not-criminally-responsible defense is rarely used because it is difficult to win. Probably the most recent well-known example was the case of Jarrod Ramos, who killed five staffers at the Capital Gazette offices in Baltimore in 2018. Ramos attempted to prove not-criminally-responsible, but his criminal defense was rejected by the jury, and he was convicted of the murder charges.

Another reason that the not-criminally-responsible defense is rarely used is because it does not result in the release from custody of the accused. Jail or prison incarceration may be avoided, but if the accused is found to have a mental disorder, the usual result is indefinite confinement to a mental health treatment facility.

That being said, it IS possible to successfully use the not-criminally-responsible defense. Depending on the actual circumstances and charges, the defense might be the best option. If If you have been arrested and charged with a crime here in Waldorf, Maryland or any other part of Southern Maryland, call us here at the Law Office of Robert Castro. Call us at (301) 705-5137. We are experienced and courtroom-tested Maryland criminal defense attorneys. We are available around the clock, 24/7.

The process for using the not-criminally-responsible defense is complicated. First, pursuant to Md. Crim. Stat., § 3-110, the accused must assert the defense at the very beginning of the case. Then, prior to trial, there will be mental health evaluations of the accused. There may be several of these. The initial examination/evaluation will be to determine whether the accused is competent to stand for trial. If so, then other examinations will be conducted for evidence purposes and for eventual presentation to the jury. During this pre-trial phase, if warranted, the accused may be held in a secure lock-up in a mental health facility or the medical section of the local correctional holding facility.

In Maryland, the not-criminally-responsible defense is somewhat easier to prove than in other states. As in every state, the accused has the burden of proving the defense. However, unlike many States, the burden is called “preponderance of the evidence,” which is a much lower burden than “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” — the standard required in many States. By statute, the test for criminal responsibility is as follows:

“(a) A defendant is not criminally responsible for criminal conduct if, at the time of that conduct, the defendant, because of a mental disorder or mental retardation, lacks substantial capacity to:

(1) appreciate the criminality of that conduct; or

(2) conform that conduct to the requirements of law.

(b) For purposes of this section, “mental disorder” does not include an abnormality that is manifested only by repeated criminal or otherwise antisocial conduct.”

In Maryland, a trial where the not-criminally-responsible defense is asserted has two phases. In the first phase, the government prosecuting attorneys must prove — beyond a reasonable doubt — that the accused committed the crimes charged. Then, at a second separate portion of the trial, the accused will be allowed to present evidence that they were not criminally responsible. If the jury agrees with the defense, then the judge will not sentence the accused for the crimes but will take action with respect to having the accused confined in the facilities of mental health care professionals. Such confinement might be indefinite, regardless of the crime. On the other hand, if the jury rejects the not-criminally-responsible defense, the judge will enter the guilty verdict and move to sentencing.

Contact Waldorf, Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions, contact our office to speak to an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer at (301) 705-5137. We are Waldorf, MD, Criminal Defense lawyers. Our address is 2670 Crain Highway, Waldorf, MD, 20601.