Mental disorders have a significant impact on a person’s behaviors and way of thinking. In criminal law, the insanity defense relies on arguments that a defendant’s mental state alleviates personal responsibility for a criminal act.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is often associated with prior military or law enforcement experience, though any significant traumatic events can lead to the development of this condition. In recent years, both federal and state courts are more accepting of the use of PTSD as an influential factor in criminal defense.
Defense options concerning mental health conditions
As there is a new outlook and understanding of mental health conditions brought on by the advancements in sociality, psychology and biology, the legal system is slowly opening doors for criminal defense arguments arising from mental health disorders. While there is never a guarantee that such an argument will win a case, extensive experience in presenting the condition, symptoms and challenges of these disorders can make an impact on the court.
Use of PTSD as a defense
Because PTSD is a type of mental disorder, it is generally accepted as a means of criminal defense by way of insanity or as a mitigating factor. Those who suffer from PTSD may demonstrate behaviors similar to individuals diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and oppositional defiant disorder. Civil litigation and personal injury cases more frequently experience the use of PSTD, but within the criminal law context, it can aid in an argument of diminished capacity or finding of insanity.
A PTSD diagnosis in itself is not a criminal defense. It can, however, constitute a mitigating factor that influences legal deposition.