Skip to navigation
Depressed Male Patient Having Psychotherapy Session with Counselor

Mental Health and Criminal Defense

Strand Law Offices, LLC June 12, 2023

Mental health disorders are quite common in the United States. According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 57.8 million U.S. adults live with a mental illness. Unfortunately, a mental health issue can cause a person to act out violently, recklessly, or break the law. Hence, it is possible for someone with a mental health problem to commit a crime or break the law without any intention. 

If you or someone you know is under investigation for a crime in connection with their mental illness, retaining a knowledgeable Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney is crucial to help build your case. At Strand Law Offices, LLC, we provide comprehensive guidance and representation to individuals facing criminal charges due to their mental health issues. 

As your legal team, we can assess all of the facts of your case and help craft a solid defense in pursuit of the most favorable outcome for your circumstances. Our firm proudly serves clients across West Chester, Lancaster County, and surrounding counties throughout Pennsylvania. 

Common Mental Health Disorders 

Mental health disorders include various mental health issues that affect the thinking, behavior, and emotions of a person. Here are some common health disorders that are often associated with individuals convicted of a crime: 

  • schizophrenia 

  • borderline personality disorder 

  • depression 

  • addiction and substance use disorder 

  • antisocial personality disorder 

  • anxiety disorders 

  • obsessive-compulsive disorder 

  • trauma 

  • psychosis 

  • autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) 

  • mood disorder 

  • phobias 

  • post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

  • bipolar disorder 

In addition, the symptoms of these mental health issues can occur in mild, moderate, or severe cases in patients. As such, it may prompt the person to act violently or commit a crime without remorse. An experienced lawyer can evaluate every aspect of your case and explore the possibility of using mental health as a legal defense in your case.  

Mental Health as a Defense 

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the legal insanity defense is an affirmative defense which an attorney may use in a criminal case. According to the M'Naghten rule, 

"The defendant is absolved of responsibility if, at the time of committing the act, due to a defect of reason or disease of mind, the accused either did not know the nature and quality of his [or her] act or did not know that the act was wrong." 

From the above statute, in order to prove insanity defense, the defendant's attorney must show that the accused person's state of mind caused them to: 

  • be unaware of what they were doing when they committed the act. 

  • be unaware that their actions were wrong or can't differentiate between right and wrong. 

Furthermore, mental health defenses can be categorized into competency and criminal responsibility. 


Competency can be described as a legal defense that is focused on the defendant's mental limitations at the present time. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a defendant that is incompetent to participate in the legal process cannot be prosecuted. Rather, the court will refer the defendant to a mental health facility for treatment. However, their case may resume if they recover or regain competency with treatment. 

Criminal Responsibility 

Criminal responsibility can be described as an affirmative legal defense that is focused on the defendant's mental health when the crime or act was committed. In order to prove criminal responsibility, the defendant's attorney must provide significant evidence and facts, including health records of persistent or episodic mental health illness. 

Proving Mental Health Claims 

Additionally, to establish insanity defense or mental health as a defense in Pennsylvania, the defense lawyer must prove that: 

  • the defendant was unable to differentiate right from wrong when they committed the act. 

  • the defendant did not understand the moral nature of the act due to their mental illness. 

  • the defendant cannot understand the legal process. 

A reliable criminal defense lawyer can gather factual evidence to establish your insanity defense and represent you intelligently at every phase of the legal process. 

Sentencing and Rights of Prisoners With Mental Health Disorders 

According to Pennsylvania law, a defendant who is severely mentally disabled and requires treatment shall receive mental health treatment – provided by the Department of Corrections – that is consistent with the available resources. The state shall cover the cost of the defendant's treatments. 

In addition, if the defendant is discharged before their maximum sentence expires, the treatment facility shall provide a report of their condition to the Pennsylvania Parole Board, county jail, or correctional facility. 

What's more, the report should include the defendant's behavior, course of treatment, potential for recurrence, and recommendations for potential treatment. Also, the board will determine the conditions for parole or probation, and this may include psychological and psychiatric counseling. 

You Deserve a Strong Defense. Contact Our Attorney Today 

A mental illness can prompt you to become passionate, violent, break the law, or commit a crime. Thankfully, you may be able to establish mental health as a legal defense to prove your innocence, receive a lenient penalty, alternative sentencing, or get your case dismissed. However, proving mental health can be very difficult, but not impossible. 

With over 20 years of broad experience, we have the diligence and resources to help individuals with mental health disorders facing criminal charges. Our attorney can investigate your case details and outline a strategic plan to establish mental health claim as a legal defense during trial. Above all, we will represent you aggressively, fight for your rights, and ensure that you do not suffer severe consequences for your otherwise inadvertent actions.  

Contact us at Strand Law Offices, LLC, today to arrange a case evaluation with a strategic criminal defense attorney. We proudly serve clients across West Chester, Lancaster County, and surrounding counties throughout Pennsylvania.