Some people think that mental illness and violence go hand-in-hand. Research suggests, however, that this public perception is not accurate. Most individuals with psychiatric disorders are not violent. Although a small percentage of people suffering from psychiatric disorders commits assaults and violent crimes, findings have been inconsistent concerning what role mental illness plays, and what impact substance abuse and other factors have, in such behavior.
The existence of mental illness may play a significant and beneficial role in the defense of a person charged with a serious crime. The courts and legislature in Pennsylvania recognize that the mental soundness of a person engaged in conduct charged to constitute a criminal offense may be a complete defense to the crime charged if the person was “legally insane” at the time of the commission of the offense.
“M’Naghten’s Rule” is the common law rule that legal insanity is a complete defense to a crime. M’Naghten’s Rule is codified by our legislature in Section 315 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code. “Legally insane” means that, at the time of the commission of the offense, the actor was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or, if the actor did know the quality of the act, that he did not know that what he was doing was wrong. If the elements of legal insanity cannot be proven, such as when an accused is “Guilty But Mentally Ill,” the accused’s mental illness still may be a significant factor in achieving a mitigated, or lesser, sentence of imprisonment or punishment by the court.
Apart from being charged with a crime, whenever a person is severely mentally disabled and in need of immediate treatment, he may be subjected to involuntary emergency examination, treatment and confinement in a mental health facility. A person is severely mentally disabled when, as a result of mental illness, his capacity to exercise self-control, judgment and discretion in the conduct of his affairs and social relations or to care for his own personal needs is so lessened that he poses a clear and present danger of harm to others or to himself.
Under such circumstances, Pennsylvania’s Mental Health Procedures Act of 1966 and related case law permit a mentally disabled person to be involuntarily committed for up to 5 days (“302” commitment), 20 days (“303” commitment), 90 days (304 commitment), and 180 days (305 commitment) in a mental health facility.
Since 1979, Attorney Dennis G. Charles of Charles Law Offices has defended in excess of 15,000 cases involving people suffering from debilitating mental disorders or illnesses currently categorized in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM V) including, without limitation:
Several of these individuals have been charged with murder, arson, rape, robbery, aggravated assault or other serious felony offenses. Attorney Charles has recorded the most legal insanity acquittals in Lehigh County criminal trial history, and has been featured on both nationally syndicated and local television programs as a result of his extensive trial experience and legal training in representing the mentally ill, including the Arts & Entertainment Network television program “American Justice,” Court TV, the Lifetime Movie Network television program “Killer Kids,” and AM Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Inquirer Newspaper featured Attorney Charles in a front page article entitled “Insanity on Defense.”
If you, or a loved one, suffer from a mental disorder or illness and have been charged with a serious crime or need legal assistance, rely upon Attorney Dennis G. Charles’ proven track record of success in presenting legal insanity or mental infirmity defenses. Let Attorney Charles’ nearly 40 years of knowledge, legal training, peerless trial experience and skill in representing the mentally ill assist you, or your loved one, to achieve a fair, just and successful outcome.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with a lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the attorneys at Charles Law Offices.
The Charles Brothers’ devotion to the law is derived from a family history in the legal system and of service to others. Their father, Charles “Chink” Charles (depicted in the lower left-hand corner of the photograph) held a 35 year career in law enforcement, and was selected to serve as the personal bodyguard for former United States Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson during their campaign visits to Allentown.