Insanity Defense

Defendants in Texas face an uphill climb in Houston criminal courts when they wish to raise the insanity defense in criminal cases. The accepted standard is that a defendant claiming insanity must prove that he did not know right from wrong at the time of the offense and that he or she is not capable of assisting in their own defense.

Should Mr. Pham believe that one of his clients fits that definition, he and any other Houston area criminal defense attorney must raise that defense within 20 days before the trial date. At that time, the court or the prosecution can order that an expert be appointed to evaluate the defendant. Mr. Pham will also retain a psychologist to evaluate his client. In these cases, the “battle of the experts” begins. Each expert will submit a report to the court and will testify at trial. Is should come as no surprise that it is vital for a defendant asserting an insanity defense hire the best experts available to evaluate the defendant. Mr. Pham has 13 years of experience in and around the Houston criminal courts, and he s fully aware of the best experts available in criminal cases when the insanity defense is being raised. Should the judge determine that the defendant can stand trial, the issue will still be presented at trial, and it is an issue for the jury to determine.

Should the jury determine that the defendant is not guilty by reason of insanity, it becomes complicated. First, the defendant is sent to a prison facility to be evaluated. That evaluation must be concluded within 30 days. Then, an appropriate placement is determined. Sometimes this can be a mental hospital or residential care facility, but it can also be a residential care facility or community-based treatment. In either case, that person cannot be committed for a period of time that exceeds that maximum confinement period for the offense. That is, if a person is charged with robbery but found to be insane by a jury, and the maximum confinement in prison is 20 years, he or she cannot be committed for longer than 20 years. However, the state does have the civil commitment at its disposal. That is, at the close of the term of commitment in a mental care facility, the state can move to keep the person confined to a facility if the person is a danger.

Should the defendant be released from his mental care facility, the court is required to notify the victim of the crime.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges and you think that an insanity defense could be raised, and you want an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer, contact Houston attorney Michael H. Pham at (713) 236-7791.

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