There's all sorts of mental defenses in Los Angeles. One of the key defenses is sometimes people are just not operating in their right mind when they commit a crime. I've had people who were hallucinating on drugs. I've had people who had mixed drugs. I've had people who had actually been drugged and then they do something that caused them to be arrested for a crime and then the question becomes are they going to be able to use some sort of a mental defense to either make the crime less than normally would be, or to get rid of the crime altogether.
These are some interesting questions. They should be taken on a case-by-case basis. Nobody is just going to say, oh yeah, you can use a mental defense in any crime because most times the government, the police, the prosecutors and judges in Los Angeles County are not going to let people get away with crimes just because they claim that they were not in their right mind. So, obviously you're going to have to have support for the mental defense to actually show maybe the person has a past history of having mental issues. Maybe you have some witnesses that say the person looked crazy and didn't look like they really understood what they were doing.
That's the test when it comes to these mental defenses. Did the person know right from wrong at the time they committed the crime in Los Angeles? Sometimes we can prove the person did not know right from wrong, but then the issue becomes is it a voluntary intoxication situation where they actually took drugs or alcohol themselves? Or is it a situation where the person does suffer from a mental illness that causes them not to know right from wrong. If that's the case, that can be a complete defense to a criminal offense in any of the Los Angeles courthouses.
Another question becomes what type of a mental issue is it? People who are saying they're bipolar will typically not be sufficient to be able to make the argument didn't know right from wrong. Now, if they're bipolar and there's a combination of other different things going on, that could actually be a situation where you could use a mental defense. To me, whenever I'm using a mental defense in a case, I'm going to get an expert. I'm going to get somebody who's been down this road before and has handled these types of matters before – some sort of psychiatrist or psychologist who has dealt with this particular crime, who has dealt with defendants who have had this particular mental illness, and obviously I'm going to have them secretly interview my client and provide a report for me. I'm going to talk to them about it and if it's something that looks like it will help the client in their mental defense, then obviously we'll use the expert.
If on the other hand, the individual comes back with the conclusion that this is not going to be good enough for a mental defense and the person is going to be criminally culpable, then we may not use them and we don' have to turn that report over. That's basically a defense report where we're trying to do things to help our particular client related to their particular situation.
So, you also have to realize someone who voluntarily gets themselves intoxicated by using a drug or alcohol or any other substance. They're going to have limited defenses available – limited mental defenses available. Really what it's going to be limited to when you have a mental defense that's a mental issue that's brought on by your substance abuse, that's called voluntary intoxication and that's going to be limited in California, and specifically in Los Angeles, to cases where the person is charged with a specific intent crime – where they have to specifically intend to do a certain thing.
Most crimes in Los Angeles are general intent crimes, and therefore, voluntary intoxication is not going to be able to be used as a defense in a case. But a lot of times when I've done mental defense cases, and I've done insanity cases – I've done ever mental defense case you can think of in a twenty-five year career so far – I'm seeing people doing stuff that just doesn't make sense. In other words, there's no criminal purpose behind it. Like, why would you do something like that? You're obviously going to get caught. There's cameras. There's witnesses, and you're really not benefitting anyway. You're just doing crazy stuff. That starts to become the makings of an argument that the person is not operating in their right mind and if we can bring other things to bear on that argument, then we're in business to assert a mental defense.
So, what I have you do – either you or your loved one come in and we talk about the situation. We get down to the nitty-gritty about what's going on. Why the crime or crimes occurred, and then we start making the strategic moves and decisions to help you mount a mental defense that works well for your particular situation.
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