Criminal Responsibility/Diminished Capacity
Criminal responsibility evaluations look at possible legal insanity at the time of an alleged offense. Insanity refers to situations in which, by virtue of mental disease or defect, a defendant lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. Contrary to the perceptions of the general public, such a defense is actually utilized fairly rarely, and its successful use typically triggers civil commitment that results in confinement of the individual to a mental health facility rather than allowing the defendant to walk free. Diminished capacity evaluations look at the extent to which an individual who was not legally insane at the time of an offense might nonetheless have been so impaired as to lack the capacity to form the intent requisite to many crimes. Legally, a finding of diminished capacity only partially excuses the criminal behavior, resulting in a conviction for a lesser offense.