Many people with both diagnosed and undiagnosed mental illnesses are arrested
in South Carolina every year. People with these conditions are more susceptible
to both commit
crimes, and also to be falsely or unfairly charged.
These conditions can include the following:
- Bi-polar disorder
- Personality disorders
- Drug and/or alcohol conditions
Most people who have a mental health condition are still eligible to be
prosecuted. We no longer maintain any long-term psychiatric facilities
in South Carolina, and many serious mentally ill people end up in our
jails and serving prison sentences in the Department of Corrections.
Mental illness can be used in the defense of a criminal charge primarily
in one of three ways:
Competency to stand trial: When someone's mental illness prevents them from understanding the
charges against them or to assist in their own defense they may be held
incompetent to stand trial. This is usually determined after a court ordered
evaluation by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. If someone
is ultimately held to be incompetent to stand trial the court will determine
if competency is likely to be restored with mental health treatment. If
so they can be held for treatment until their condition improves, and
then their criminal case will be allowed to proceed. If competency cannot
be restored then the criminal proceedings will terminate and the defendant
will be committed to the Department of Mental Health. With our state's
absence of long term treatment options many of these defendants will be
returned to their home within a matter of just a few months, even if they
were charged with a serious crime.
Capacity to conform: When the mental illness is as such that someone is not able to understand
right from wrong at the time they committed their crime this can serve
as a defense. An example would be someone with schizophrenia who was hallucinating
when they committed an assault. This is usually determined after a court
ordered evaluation by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health.
When someone is held to not have capacity to confirm they may actually
still be prosecuted, and may actually still end up being incarcerated
in the Department of Corrections.
Mitigation: When a mental illness does not right to the very high level necessary
to establish an inability to understand right from wrong, or to participate
in the defense, it may still be used as mitigation. This means that it
can be used to negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce charges, or to
assist the court in providing a lowered or probationary sentence. We regularly
advise our clients who have mental health issues to have them fully evaluated
and obtain a course of treatment in an effort to demonstrate to the prosecutor
that they are addressing their issues and do not pose a significant risk
to themselves or their community.
The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC Approach to Your Case!
When we are defending an individual with a mental health condition we regularly
make use of a forensic psychologist to assist in our client's defense.
A forensic psychologist is one who specializes in evaluating mental health
issues specifically for court purposes, and is able to come to court to
testify on our client's behalf as necessary. Often non-forensic psychologists
and counselors are reluctant to get involved in legal matters, especially
since those services are not ordinarily covered by insurance. Additionally
a forensic psychologist is going to know how to better present their findings
in court, and will be prepared to have their findings stand up to cross-examination.
Contact our firm to learn more about your legal options today.
Our legal team is backed by decades of experience and is dedicated to excellence!