There are two basic ways to use our client’s medical condition to minimize the impact of the criminal prosecution:Legal Defenses and Mitigation.
Florida Criminal Law: Litigation
There are two basic legal defenses where our client’s brain illness is important: Incompetency and Insanity. Both involve expert evaluation of mental functioning and a judge makes the final determination based upon the expert evaluations. There are one to three evaluations of the defendant. When a defendant is evaluated, they are normally evaluated for both Incompetency and Insanity at the time of the incident which resulted in their arrest. Most Florida criminal defense lawyers have at least some familiarity with this process.
Incompetence is a severe, current, mental impairment. A criminal defendant is Incompetent to Proceed where they cannot effectively participate in the defense of their case. For example, they may not be able to testify competently or communicate with their attorney effectively. An incompetent defendant may ramble on about things that are unimportant in their case, be confused about what happened or refuse talk at all due to paranoia.
Upon a legal finding of incompetence, a defendant’s legal proceedings are suspended until competence is regained. The time frame for restoring competence varies from a few months to several years. In rare cases, it may never be regained. Occasionally, incompetence may give rise to a Motion to Dismiss the charges, but this, too, is very rare.
Insanity is legally different than incompetence. Insanity under Florida law means that a defendant, regardless of their sanity later, was unaware of what they were doing at the time of the incident due to mental illness or they were aware but under delusion.
Insanity is a complete defense to most crimes, but an acquittal based upon insanity is treated differently than a normal verdict of ‘Not Guilty.’ When someone is found to be ‘Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity,’ a judge will make specific findings and do one of three things:
Legally, incompetence and insanity are very rare since the level of mental dysfunction must be quite severe. Most clients who suffer from mental illnesses are neither legally incompetent nor insane, yet they have substantial behavioral problems that significantly impair their lives. If left untreated, they will often bounce in and out of the legal system until one day, the doors stay shut for many years, possibly a lifetime.
Florida Criminal Law: Mitigation
Most One Stop Therapy cases involve damage control in order to minimize the impact of problem behavior in the context of Florida criminal law. Damage control (mitigation) comes in many forms. Some of the ways include:
In some cases, the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment plan are used to negotiate with the State Attorney directly. In other cases, they are used to affect the judge’s decision when the State will not agree to go along with our settlement suggestion. In either scenario, client confidentiality is maintained unless it advantageous to release the information. When it is released, we inoculate it as much as possible in the event settlement is not possible and trial becomes necessary.
Florida’s state criminal law expressly recognizes mental illness as a legal ground for mitigation: Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.992(b) specifically states that a defendant’s mental illness, disease or defect (when unrelated to substance abuse) is a legal ground for a downward departure from the mandatory sentencing scheme of the Florida Punishment Code.
UPDATE: Most Florida criminal defense lawyers are not aware that SPECT Brain Imaging renders the substance abuse exclusion meaningless in most cases because we are able to show with great scientific accuracy whether a brain system is over active, under active or working correctly. In many cases where people chronically using substances such as drugs or alcohol, there is a brain system malfunction unrelated to substance abuse. Make no mistake, SPECT will show the impact of substance abuse upon the human brain, and the damage caused by it. However, an examination by a trained nuclear medicine psychiatrist will also show the brain system dysfunction that causes the self medication. In other words, the pre-existing brain system dysfunction causes the self medication. Our entire knowledge of how brain systems work has been changed since the legislature changed this area of mitigation: Knowledge has replaced ignorance.
The proper treatment of brain illnesses can affect just about any criminal case settlement. How much it affects settlement options depends on a variety of factors and is case specific. In every case, the proper treatment of brain illnesses will improve the client’s quality of life. Very few Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers focus on the treatment dynamic,
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