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mental health issues

How Can a Person’s Mental Health Impact a Criminal Case?

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If you’ve watched any legal shows, you’ve no doubt seen an episode where a defendant pleads “insanity.” Though the events on screen are fiction, a person’s mental health can indeed impact a criminal case. Things rarely proceed like an episode of Law and Order, but an Astoria criminal defense lawyer can tell you how your mental health affects your case and what kind of defensive strategies could be used.

How Can a Person’s Mental Health Affect Case Outcomes?

A defendant’s mental health can affect cases and their outcomes in a few ways. First of all, most traditional methods of punishment do not really help to rehabilitate people with serious psychological problems. The state might feel good about sending someone to jail for their crimes, but if that person has mental health problems a prison sentence is unlikely to transform them into an upstanding member of society.

The mental status of the defendant at the time of the alleged crime can also affect whether or not they can be held responsible for their actions. In some cases, it can be argued that the defendant did do something wrong, but that they were unable to properly reckon with that and make the right decision due to mental health issues.

How Does Mental Health Change a Lawyer’s Strategy?

This is why the mental health of a defendant can change the strategy of their lawyer and how a case is approached. A defense attorney first needs to look for evidence that their client has an issue. They can use evidence like:

  • The defendant’s medical history
  • Testimony from doctors or experts
  • A history of medications prescribed to the patient

When taken together, this evidence can help the defense’s argument that a psychological issue affected the defendant’s judgment. The defense attorney can also begin pushing for punishments that would actually help to rehabilitate the defendant, like treatment programs.

What Does Competency to Stand Trial Mean?

The issue of a defendant’s mental status can also come up when their competency to stand trial is evaluated. A defendant needs to be able to understand a few things if they are on trial. They must:

  • Understand the charges against them
  • Understand the roles of everyone involved in the court proceedings, including the judge, jury, and prosecutor
  • Be capable of consulting with their attorney and understanding their advice

If mental health problems prevent a defendant from being judged competent to stand trial, the case cannot move forward until they can be declared competent.

Contact Our Law Firm Today

When you are facing serious criminal charges, you want an experienced lawyer who can advocate for you and build the best possible defensive strategy. At Vasiliou Law, we will do everything that we can to show that you need actual help for your mental health issues, not harsh punishment like jail time. Schedule your free consultation with our team today.

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