Traditionally, a criminal defendant who was suffering from a serious mental disorder at the time of the alleged crime could enter a plea of Not Guilty by reason of insanity. However, in 1982, Idaho abolished the insanity defense. I.C. § 18-207(1) states:
“Mental condition shall not be a defense to any charge of criminal conduct.”
This law also provides that a mentally ill defendant convicted of a crime is to be sent to a secured treatment facility to serve out his sentence.
Because of this statute, there is very little left of the insanity defense in Idaho, but a criminal defense attorney can, in some case, introduce evidence of a defendant’s mental disorder at trial. This is true because of subsection (3) of this statute, which provides:
“Nothing herein is intended to prevent the admission of expert evidence on the issue of any state of mind which is an element of the offense, subject to the rules of evidence.”
For example, if a person suffering from schizophrenia forged checks, his illness would not be a bar to prosecution for this crime. On the other hand, if this same mentally ill person was suffering from the delusion that the checks he forged were actually checks in his own name, evidence of this delusion would be admissible at trial to prove that he did not have the intent to steal money from another person’s bank account.
Admittedly, the number of cases falling into this category will be quite small. Still, the best criminal defense attorneys will evaluate all possible defenses to a crime when zealously representing the accused.