What is the Insanity Defense

This is a complete defense to the charged crime and requires the accused to establish the defense by a preponderance of the evidence and can be applied to both general and specific intent crimes.  Iowa law follows the M’Naghten rule and provides that a person is insane if at the time the offense was committed the accused was suffering from a diseased or deranged mental condition that renders the person incapable of knowing the nature and quality of the act the person is committing or, incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong.  This defense becomes applicable only once the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed a crime and then the accused must prove that at the time the crime was committed, he or she was legally insane.  

Temporary insanity is a sub-category to the insanity defense and can be used if the defendant can provide substantial evidence that the defendant was insane and he/she involuntarily ingested an intoxicant.  This defense is not available if the person voluntarily ingested an intoxicant making it a tricky defense to use when a person is suffering from a mental defect and is also using intoxicants.

If a person is found not guilty by reason of insanity, the court must order the person to be committed to a State mental health institute for a complete evaluation to determine whether the defendant is a danger to the defendant’s self or others.  The commitment will likely continue as long as the person remains to be a danger to themselves or others.

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