New Jersey Insanity Defense
New Jersey Insanity defense is concerned with determining when individuals whose conduct would otherwise be criminal are cleared because they were not responsible for their actions when they acted as they did because at the time of committing the act the defendant was laboring under a defect of reason such that he did not know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong.
The insanity defense must be based on a psychosis which is a disease of the mind whereas a lesser illness such as an anxiety neurosis may not rise to a level of New Jersey insanity defense.
Claim of delusion, adjudged incompetent in civil proceedings, temporary insanity or even schizophrenia will not clear defendant under this defense because the only question is whether “at the time of committing the act the defendant was laboring under a defect of reason such that he did not know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong.”
New Jersey Insanity defense is an affirmative defense, meaning that the burden is on the defendant to prove the defense by a preponderance of the evidence.
The court has authority to appoint a psychiatrist or psychologist to examine the subject's mental condition, unless there is reason to doubt the defendant's fitness to proceed.
The defendant must be committed for a period not to exceed thirty days for purposes of examination but the period may be extended for fifteen days upon a showing of particular need.
The report must describe the nature of the examination, diagnosis of defendant's mental condition and opinion concerning the defendant's capacity to understand the proceedings against him and to assist in his own defense.
Answers to questions concerning the crime charged are not admissible as evidence on the issue of guilt.
If the defendant is unwilling to cooperate it should be mentioned in the report and stated whether it is a result of mental incompetence.
After the report is submitted the court determines defendant’s fitness to proceed.
If the court determines defendant lacks fitness to proceed, the criminal proceedings are immediately suspended and court decides whether defendant should be institutionalized.
The test for whether defendant is to be institutionalized is different from the test for whether the defendant is fit to proceed.
The test is whether the defendant as a result of his mental disease or defect is a danger to himself or others.
After an acquittal by insanity the court may release defendant without supervision if it finds that he may be released without danger to the community or himself; release under supervision provided that defendant is not a danger to the community or himself; or commit defendant to a mental health facility.
Defendant deemed insane by the courts may not be confined in a penal or correctional institution.
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