Temporary Insanity Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Temporary Insanity, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Temporary Insanity?

During the proceeding of a criminal case, the defence lawyer can claim that the accused was not in position to identify whether his/her act of crime was legal or illegal, at the time of the performing the crime, and was suffering from Mental disorder. Generally there is no proof of such conditions except the immediate action before or after the crime as its temporary by nature. Sometimes such claims are used to lower down the degree of crime and sentence thereafter.

History and Meaning of Temporary Insanity

The concept of temporary insanity has been a part of criminal defense for a long time. It was initially used as a plea in the 19th century to acquit defendants accused of crimes that would usually warrant severe punishment. The temporary insanity defense claims that the defendant was unable to tell right from wrong due to a mental defect or disease that was only present at the time of the crime. This disease or mental defect may have made it impossible for the defendant to follow the law.

Examples of Temporary Insanity

  1. A defendant accused of burglary claims that they had been suffering from a dissociative disorder and didn't realize that they were breaking into someone else's house.

  2. A person accused of murder claims that they could not understand that killing someone is illegal because they were under extreme emotional distress.

  3. A driver accused of causing an accident that caused severe injury or death claims that they blacked out at the time of the accident and had no control over their actions.

Legal Terms Similar to Temporary Insanity

  1. Diminished capacity - A legal defense that claims a defendant's mental capacity was incapable of forming the intent required to commit a specific crime.

  2. Insanity defense - This defense requires a defendant to suggest that their mental illness or disease prevented them from knowing what they were doing in a legal sense or the difference between right and wrong while committing a crime.

  3. Automatism - A legal defense wherein the defendant claims that they had no control over their actions, and they were not aware of what they were doing due to an external event or mental illness.