Criminal responsibility is the ability of an individual to comprehend their acts when a crime is taking place. It is what the person is thinking about and the anticipated result of the crime they are committing. Laws usually defend crimes in two terms, which are the mental state of the person and the act of the offense. Criminal responsibility is related to the element of the mental state of the offense.
There are various states of the mental which are evaluated before a decision is made on the reason the culprit committed the crime. The most necessary element of the crime is a guilty mental state also known as a culpable. For a conviction to take place there must be proof that the person in question carried out the law breaking activities, was aware of the acts they were committing while doing so. There are various mental states on which the criminal responsibility can be judged on (Weiner and Allen 180).
The intentional mental state explains that the culprit was conscious as they engaged in the act. They were aware that the acts which they were committing would result in a crime. A knowing state can be explained as the person determines that their conducts will lead to a particular result. A reckless mental state also recognized as wanton explains the disregard acts of a substantial risk which will be associated with the crime acts they will perform. A negligence mental state describes the unaware condition of the person that their actions will result in a risky situation such as costing other people their lives.
Evaluation before making any decisions in the court is necessary to determine the state of mind of the actor and the justice that will be administered. The evaluation should be careful and diligence as there is need to get proof of the guilt or the innocent state of the culprit before making any court decisions. At times, the panel responsible for the case is required to look for help from experts on the mental state of the person who committed the crime (Gideon 3). There are some forensic investigators, mental health professionals, psychologists and therapists who have been trained for evaluation of the criminal responsibility of a person. The professionals are expected to analyze various things such as the narrative the actor gives on what took place, the results of the psychological tests that player underwent, the behavior of the culprit before the crime, during and after the crime happens, and the history of the psychological conditions and mental illness if any exists.
At times in the court of law, the testimony of an individual who is not an expert may be used. The person is usually referred to as a lay witness, and they help in the establishment of criminal responsibility. As long as the lay witness is of mental health and was there while the offense was taking place, their information is used in making the court judgment.
Various legal defenses are used to explain criminal responsibility. When an individual commits any crime, and they are determined to be of the unstable mind, they are not charged in the court of law. The court takes responsibility of ensuring that individual seeks mental health care so that they can be stabilized and further criminal acts stopped. The insanity of one of the common legal defenses where a person has to be of sound mind to be charged with the criminal activities they committed. When an individual is insane, it is decided that they were either their mental states were negligent, intentional, reckless or knowing or they should take responsibility for their acts (Draper and David 14).
The Supreme Court in America feels that when a person is of sound mind, they are aware of the acts they are committing and the results they expect. The court has separated the law by stating that the small-scale crimes should not be judged depending on the insanity of the individual. These crimes are the public welfare offenses which threaten the lives of the people. Later, the Supreme Court changed and adopted the concept of first determining the mental state of a person before establishing whether they are guilty or not. Those individuals who are not morally upright are convicted as they lead to the destruction of the morals of the people in the community.
Various steps have been enacted to ensure that the mental state of the culprit is not interfered with due to things such as drugs use. Controlling drugs, for instance, is among the methods through which the crime offenders are protected, to make sure that they will not commit a crime and then ruled as if they were not of sound mind while committing the crime due to drugs use. The Supreme Court supports the evaluation of the mental state of the individual and determines that the person who committed the crime was of sound mind, it was intentional, and the person was aware of the results. Where necessary, health experts should be consulted as they shed light on the mental state of the culprit.
Ruling based on Jackson and Indiana Case
The Jackson and Indiana case explains the violation of the involuntary committing an offense for a period of time due to the inability to stand on the trial permanently for the charges faced. Another case, a suspect was detained due to minor criminal charge, and the officers had this believe that the individual was not of sound mind (Weiner and Allen 183). Once the individual arrived at the station, a competency evaluation test was carried out and was taken to a psychiatric facility. An anti-psychotic medication was later administered legally through the culprit was resistance. Before processing to the court trials, various tests were supposed to be made. The individual might have been under substance use, wince he was arrested outside a local bar. In the bar, he might have used some illegal substances which would have interfered with his mental state.
The first step that should have been taken was a medical rest; one the officers determined that the suspect acted as if he was mentally ill. The medical tests that should be taken should be both physical and mental. The physical tests will determine if the individual was under any influence of alcohol or drugs, considering that his arrest took place outside a local bar. If the person was under the influence, time should be allowed for the substances to dissolve and the person to be sober again, so that the mental tests would be carried out. Mental tests would be carried to determine if the suspect was mentally ill, even without the influence of the alcohol. Making a decision of taking the suspect to the psychiatric facility depending on the competency evaluation test was wrong, as no physical or mental evaluation is taken. Administering of the anti-psychotic medication was wrong though legal as the right of the culprit to make decisions was interfered with (Draper and David 28).
The suspect could make a case against the officers who arrested him, make him go through a competency test, took him to the psychiatric home even without enough proof that he was mentally ill and later forced anti-psychotic medication though legally but against the suspects will. In a court of law, when the defendant is found to be incompetent the criminal proceeding are usually suspended. Mostly when the cases are petty, a plea bargain or dropping of the case entirely is done. Upon medical tests, the suspect may be committed to a psychiatric hospital for treatment cases. In this case, the suspect had been alleged to be unsound mind, thus could not stand any court cases. If the correct procedure were to be followed, the state of mind of the person would be determined and the decided whether to proceed with the court case or to take the person to the mental home would be determined.
The court case of “Jackson v Indiana”, the defendant, Jackson was a deaf and mute person who could not speak, write or converse through he was charged with petty theft cases. The doctors evaluating him indicated that Jackson’s intelligence was too low and he could not understand the nature of the crimes he was being accused of and even if he would, there was no way he could express his feeling. Though the Indiana state did not have any facilities to treat the problems, Jackson, he was confined to a psychiatric hospital where he would undergo further treatment. He later appealed for a new trial though it was denied. The reason for the request was that being in the mental home was equal to life imprisonment yet he was not being accused of any crimes. The charges were later dismissed in the cases of the person being of unstable mental (Gideon 16).
The case should have been solved using the example of Jackson v Indiana. The suspect should have gone through various health tests. The physical test would determine if the person was under the influence of the alcohol or any substances. The mental health would have established if the suspect was insane. The court would have then made decisions basing on the results. If the person was ill, the cases should have been dropped, and medical help would have been sought.
In conclusion, before any court decisions are made, it is necessary to determine the state of mind of an individual. For justice to prevail, it should be proved that the person was of sound mind and was aware of the results of the crime they were intending to commit. The lay witnesses might be helpful in making the decisions through it is necessary to have other proof of the crime. Before a suspect is questioned, there is a need to have medical experts to determining their mental status as it helps make a wise judgment and administer the necessary punishment. When a suspect is of mental health, they are confined to a psychiatric hospital for treatment purposes.
Draper, David Polizzi, and Matthew R. Forensic Psychology Reconsidered: A Critique of Mental Illness and the Courts. Routledge., 2015.
Gideon, Lior. Special Needs Offenders in Correctional Institutions. SAGE Publications, 2012.