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Various Defenses to Crimes

We utilize various criminal defense strategies in courts around Michigan, including Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor.

Insanity Defenses

In Michigan, there used to be two main types of criminal defenses related to mental impairment:

(1) the “diminished capacity” defense, and

(2) the “insanity” defense.

However, Michigan courts and the Michigan legislature have essentially eliminated the diminished capacity defense and made the use of the insanity defense much more complicated. Only an experienced attorney who stays on the cutting edge of the Michigan mental insanity defenses can guide you through these complex, ever-changing legal defenses to criminal charges in Michigan.

The “Diminished Capacity” Defense

Until a few years ago, the diminished capacity defense was a common criminal defense in Michigan. Under the diminished capacity defense, a legally sane defendant was allowed to offer evidence of a mental abnormality (short of insanity) to show the absence of the specific intent required to commit a particular crime. In Michigan, some crimes require the prosecutor to prove the defendant’s state of mind or that the defendant intended to commit the crime. Lawyers call this the mens rea.

However, in 2001, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that any criminal defense, other than insanity, that relates to the defendant’s mental incapacity is no longer allowed. This got rid of the “diminished capacity” defense and made “insanity” the only mental incapacity defense.

It is important to note that the elimination of the “diminished capacity” defense in Michigan does not mean that a legally sane defendant can never present evidence of a mental disorder or limited mental capacity that relates to the issues in the case. It just means that the mental disorder alone cannot be used to negate the required criminal intent (the mens rea).

The “Insanity” Defense

Under current law, the insanity defense is the only viable criminal defense in Michigan that deals with the defendant’s mental incapacity. The insanity defense is a complex, often-misunderstood area of criminal law. The attorneys on our criminal defense team are familiar with all the procedural and strategic aspects of the insanity defense. If the insanity defense is raised in your case, we will work to ensure that your rights and freedoms are protected to their utmost.

According to Michigan law, it is a defense to criminal prosecution that the defendant was legally insane when he or she committed the criminal acts. The definition of “legally insane” is that the defendant, as the result of mental illness or retardation as defined by the Michigan mental health code, “lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his or her conduct, or to conform his or her conduct to the requirements of the law.”

You must understand that the terms of this law are very strict. Sometimes, defendants are diagnosed with mental illness or retardation according to the state health codes, yet they are not allowed to raise the insanity defense. It is important to hire an aggressive criminal attorney who knows exactly how and what to argue when raising the insanity defense.

Michigan law requires that criminal defense lawyers considering the insanity defense jump through several hoops and overcome several obstacles before they can raise the defense. For instance, the defense attorneys need to give statutory notice of intent to assert the insanity defense. They must also arrange for an independent psychiatric evaluation of the defendant before proving the insanity defense by a preponderance of the evidence.

Perhaps most importantly, defense attorneys are prohibited from advising the jury that a defendant acquitted through the insanity defense does not get off “scot-free.” Even if acquitted, a defendant using the insanity defense must be immediately committed to the Center for Forensic Psychiatry for up to 60 days, undergo a thorough battery of psychiatric tests, and may be confined to one or more institutions. This is called “civil confinement.”

Our tough criminal defense lawyers will work with expert mental health professionals to gather evidence of diagnoses and treatment of the defendant’s mental condition, ranging from schizophrenia and manic depression to a variety of developmental disorders. We thoroughly investigate the possible insanity defense and follow through methodically throughout the criminal proceeding to ensure the most positive result for our client. Our trusted attorneys have successfully represented clients throughout the state of Michigan for decades. You can reach our team by calling 1-866-766-5245.

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