Criminal Insanity Pleas in Toronto

Photo of author

( — May 30, 2018) — If you are convicted of a crime in Toronto, you might be able to plead the criminal insanity defense, which entails convincing the court that you are not guilty of your criminal act because you have a mental disorder that prevents you from recognizing right from wrong. Basically, you need to prove that you were insane at the time you committed the crime. There are two ways that you can present yourself as criminally insane.

Methods of Pleading Criminally Insane

If you use the criminal insanity defense, then you have to show that you are one of two things:

  • Mentally unfit to stand trial

  • Mentally fit to withstand trial, but not guilty of your crime because you have a mental disorder that prevented you from knowing what you did was wrong

Both types of methods can result in a defendant avoiding a prison sentence, but they might result in that person being remanded to a mental institution or hospital for an extended period of time.

There are times when someone might be found not guilty by reason of insanity, but they will not go free. Instead, they might live out their prison term behind the confines of a mental hospital. Typically, they will remain in an institution until a committee deems them safe to return to society.

If a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto uses the criminal insanity defense, you must know that there are times when taking a prison term might result in less time in detention than being found guilty without being declared mentally insane.

Unfit to Stand Trial Defense

If you use a defense based around the fact that you are unfit to stand trial, then you have to raise the issue of a mental disorder before a verdict is decided upon in the case, or sometimes even before a court case begins. To prove that you are unfit to stand trial, you must show that you cannot:

  • Understand the object or the nature of the court proceedings
  • Understand the consequences of the outcome of the court proceedings
  • Effectively communicate with counsel

If someone who is accused of a crime has a mental disorder that disallows them from doing any of those things, then they can be deemed unfit and can plead insanity. This is because, if the above points hold true, there is no way that a person can participate and receive a fair trial, which is guaranteed to Canadian citizens.

Understand that if you are deemed unfit, it does not mean that you will be able to go free. If your mental disorder is temporary, then it is possible for you to be held for 60 days to receive treatment. Once your treatment is over and you are declared mentally fit, the court may then order you to stand trial.

If you are not able to stand trial after the 60 days as decided by a review board, then it is possible for the court to keep you hospitalized or in an institution indefinitely. In some instances, even if a defendant wishes to stand trial, they may not be able to because the court might decide that they are not mentally capable of making that decision.

Escaping Charges With Insanity Pleas

If a defendant is able to stand trial, it is still possible for them to use the insanity defense. For someone not to be criminally responsible for their crime due to mental illness, it must be shown that the defendant had a mental disorder at the time of the crime which made them incapable of knowing that what they were doing was wrong.

There is a board scope of what could classify as a “mental disorder” when it comes to an insanity plea. Usually, a mental disorder is any disorder or illness that impairs the ability of someone to think rationally or to function as any reasonable person would.

In some instances, mental disorders might also include personality disorders. In most cases, it is under the discretion of the court to decide who fits the insanity defense according to witnesses and expert testimony.

The insanity defense is a viable defense to use when someone is not fit to stand trial or comprehend the charges against them or the consequences of a trial. It is also a solid defense for someone who is not mentally capable of understanding that their criminal actions were wrong. That being said, none of these defenses come without their drawbacks.

There are both pros and cons to using an insanity plea, which is why it is best to have your attorney decide what the best defense is for your criminal charges. Be sure that you bring up the topic of insanity with your lawyer before trying to tackle the issue on your own.