O.R.C. 2945.40 Acquittal by Reason of Insanity

Published 05/05/15 by Admin

I write this article as much for myself, and I do for my clients, as well as potential clients. So many times I hear from my incarcerated clients, “I don’t know what happened. I was out of my mind. Can’t I plead temporary insanity?” I personally think Law & Order and all of their spin-offs have warped peoples’ minds. Here is how Acquittal Reason Insanity works in the State of Ohio. So let us start at the beginning where an attorney, by either actions or statements made by their clients, leads the attorney to believe that either a competency evaluation or a NGRI (Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity) evaluation needs to be performed. Once the motion is submitted by defense counsel, the judge will normally order that the evaluation be performed within ten (10) days of the Order being signed. It is important to remember that the Defendant should also have his independent psychological evaluation performed. Now, moving onto the law.

Under Ohio Revised Code 2945.371(A), [I]f a defendant enters a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, the court may order one or more evaluations of the defendant’s mental condition at the time of the offense charge. An examiner shall conduct the evaluation.

This evaluation consists of a two prong test:

  • Did the defendant have a severe mental disease at the time of the offense charged [ORC 2945.371 (G) (4), and
  • Did the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, not know the wrongfulness at the time of the acts charged [ORC 2945.371 (G) (4)
  • Did the defendant have a severe mental disease at the time of the offense charged?

Beginning with the first of the two-prong test, the evaluator will begin with the defendant’s medical records; were there reports of any significant mental health issues, was there a treatment plan put into place in order to treat the mental health issues, was the defendant on any medications used to treat his/her mental health issues, etc?

It is important to keep in mind that just because the defendant did not have a documented history of mental illness, does not mean one did not exist. Some individuals mask their mental health illness, self-medicate with illicit drugs, or simply do not have the resources to seek medical health attention. In fact, the offense charged may be the first significant sign of their mental illness.

This is when other surrounding factors are examined in order to discover a pre-existing mental health issue. For example, during the defendant’s interview with the police did they show eradicate behaviors in mood? Are their thoughts scattered? Are their perceptions of their surroundings distorted? Essentially are they now demonstrating signs of mental illness?

Now let us move on to the second prong of the two-part test.

  • Did the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, not know the wrongfulness at the time of the acts charged?

A good to place to begin as a Columbus Criminal Defense Lawyer is to look at the police report itself; is there anything in the record suggesting odd behaviors, statements, of other information that might be seen as even the slightest symptoms of a mental illness demonstrative of your client’s inability to comprehend the nature of his actions during the incident at hand?

When the evaluator is examining the Defendant, they are going to be looking for as much detail recall as possible. I recently had a case where the defendant actually took actions so as to NOT harm the individuals. This is demonstrative of the client’s understanding the consequences of his actions should anyone be injured during the incident, and taking precautions to cause the least amount of damage as possible.

This article is by no means meant as a comprehensive overview of the Acquittal Reason Insanity. I just hope that it is a useful guide for those people, both in and out of custody, as to the process. The higher courts have spent much time deciphering between the various tests used nationally, in differing States, in order to choose the right one for the citizens of Ohio.

As always, should you have any questions regarding this defense, or any criminal questions in general, please do not hesitate to contact the office of Barr, Jones & Associates. We work long hours to get you the result you want and deserve.