Insanity as a Defense in Colorado is a tough affirmative defense to use. The Colorado legislature has made it very difficult to use this defense, due to its great power. Our elected leaders don’t want people using it as a “get out of jail free card”, for purposeful conduct. Once you qualify for this defense, you cannot be held criminally responsible for your conduct, no matter what the crime in Denver, Jefferson, Douglas, Adams or Arapahoe County. This Affirmative Defense works with all crimes, including felony assault and murder.
Insanity means “a person so diseased or defective in mind at the time of the commission of the act as to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong with respect to that act is not accountable.” C.R.S. 16-8-101.5. You can also be insane if you “suffered from a condition of mind caused by mental disease or defect that prevented the person from forming a culpable mental state that is an essential element of a crime charged.” Practically speaking, this means that a defendant could not form “intent” or “knowingly” have done something. There are several procedural hoops which a criminal defendant must pass through to qualify for this defense.
I don’t think it is wrong to reserve this defense only for people who were so out of it that they did not know what they were doing in Castle Rock, Aurora or Highlands Ranch. However, I do think there should be some special consideration given for people who are mentally compromised just short of insane. I realize the legislature is trying to make sure people don’t plan out crimes and then claim they did not know what they were doing. Yet many people have mental problems which affect their ability to make sound decisions – while still sane.
Don’t think that people who are able to use the insanity defense get off scott free. They are still held accountable to some extent. If a finding of insanity is made by the court, the defendant will be committed for an indefinite period to a psychiatric hospital, like the Colorado mental health institute in Pueblo, Colorado. Only after a determination that the defendant is safe to be in the community, will the court hold a hearing and order the release of the defendant. Someone found to be insane might spend dozens of years in custody at the hospital.
It is always in a defendant’s best interest to remain silent and allow his or her attorney to evaluate whether pursuing this defense is in their best interest. Police officers will be trying to defeat this defense by everything you say. This is a complicated defense which can only be assessed by an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you or a loved one are accused of a crime, be smart, exercise your right to remain silent and call us today at 303-731-0719. Together, we can protect your future.