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Criminal defendant set to undergo psychological evaluation

If you have been charged with a crime, the prosecution may later decide to reduce or drop your charges if your attorney uses the right strategy. One possible criminal defense strategy is the insanity defense. A Virginia Beach man was recently charged with second-degree murder for allegedly killing his mother in October 2016.

His attorneys sought psychological evaluations to determine if the man was competent enough to stand trial. The judge granted their request and a forensic psychologist will question the man in the correctional center where he is being held. The psychologist will attempt to determine whether the man was legally insane at the time of his mother's murder. Once the psychologist reports their findings to the court, the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to go to trial.

If the insanity defense is used successfully, someone who was legally insane at the time of a crime may be found not guilty. The insanity defense may also be used to reduce the severity of the defendant's punishment.

However, it is not easy to prove that a defendant is legally insane. In Virginia, the defendant is responsible for proving insanity under the M'Naghten Rule and the Irresistible Impulse Test. The M'Naghten Rule states that, in order for a defendant to be legally insane, they must not have known the difference between right and wrong or did not understand their actions due to a disease of mind. The Irresistible Impulse Test requires that the defendant committed the crime due to an inability to control his impulses as a result of the mental disease.

While it can be difficult to qualify for an insanity defense, it has proven to be a successful strategy for many defendants.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "Aspiring Virginia Beach comedian charged with killing his mother to undergo sanity, competency evaluations," Jane Harper, Dec. 31, 2016

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