Insanity Defense in Washington

Insanity Defense in Washington

In the world of criminal law, few topics spark as much debate and controversy as the insanity defense in Washington. Portrayed in popular culture and media as a loophole that allows criminals to evade responsibility for their actions, the insanity defense is surrounded by a multitude of myths and misconceptions. In reality, the process of proving the insanity at the time of the crime requires a lot of detailed analysis on the attorney’s part. The attorneys at the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer are incredibly experienced in understanding and working with mental illnesses and will work diligently to obtain the best possible outcome for you.

Understanding the Insanity Defense in Washington

The insanity defense argues that the defendant’ should not be held responsible for criminal activity as their ability to think was impaired due to mental illness or defect. This defense is not a free pass for criminal behavior, as it is challenging to prove.

The Myths Surrounding the Insanity Defense

Myth: The insanity defense is frequently used and successful.

Reality: Contrary to media portrayals, the insanity defense is rarely used in criminal cases. Its usage rates are low, with less than 1% of cases using the insanity defense. Its success rates are also low at 26%, and within those successful cases 90% of defendants were previously diagnosed with a mental illness.

Myth: Insanity defense equals a complete acquittal.

Reality: The most common misconception is that an insanity defense automatically results in an acquittal. In reality, successful insanity defenses often lead to an alternative disposition, such as mandatory psychiatric treatment, rather than complete exoneration.

Myth: Defendants fake mental illness to avoid punishment.

Reality: While it is possible for defendants to fake mental illness, the legal system has safeguards in place to prevent abuse. Insanity defenses require extensive documentation and expert testimony from mental health professionals, making it difficult to deceive the court as the burden of proof lies with the defendant to demonstrate their lack of criminal responsibility.

The Insanity Defense Process

To better understand the realities of the insanity defense, it is essential to examine the process involved.

Evaluation: When a defendant asserts an insanity defense, they undergo a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation. A mental health professional will assess the defendant’s ability to stand trial, including their mental state at the time of the offense. Previous mental health history is also taken into account.

Expert Testimony: Mental health professionals play a crucial role in the insanity defense. These experts provide important information regarding the defendant’s mental state and its impact on their behavior during the alleged offense.

Legal Standard: Different jurisdictions have varying legal standards for insanity. The most widely used standard is the M’Naghten rule, which focuses on whether the defendant was aware of their actions and if they could understand the difference between right and wrong at the time of the offense.

Verdict: If the jury or judge finds the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity there may be alternate sentencing imposed by the court such as being committed to a rehabilitation or treatment program.

The Importance of the Insanity Defense

Despite the controversies surrounding the insanity defense, it serves crucial purposes within the legal system.

Fairness and Justice:

The insanity defense acknowledges that individuals suffering from severe mental illness may lack the capacity to understand the consequences of their actions. It prevents the unjust punishment of those who genuinely cannot be held responsible for their crimes due to their mental condition.


The alternative disposition resulting from a successful insanity defense often involves psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation. This approach aims to address the underlying mental health issues and reduce the risk of future criminal behavior, prioritizing public safety and the well-being of the defendant.

Mental Health Awareness:

The insanity defense shines a light on mental health issues, emphasizing the importance of understanding and addressing mental illness within the criminal justice system. It encourages society to recognize the complex relationship between mental health and criminal behavior.

How Can We Help You?

The insanity defense, often distorted by myths and misconceptions, is a nuanced aspect of criminal law. It is not a frequent or easily successful defense strategy. Rather, it operates as a safeguard against the unfair punishment of individuals who, due to severe mental illness, lack the capacity to comprehend the nature and consequences of their actions. By debunking the myths surrounding the insanity defense and understanding its purpose and processes, we can underline the impact that an attorney’s skill and experience might bring to similar cases. The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer is here to help you navigate and bring clarity to these stressful circumstances while our team of attorneys build a quality defense, and defending you to the fullest extent of the law.

Don’t wait, call the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer today and schedule your free consultation at (360) 334-6277 to find out how we can assist you in your time of need.