Diminished Capacity Defense

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Diminished Capacity Defense

An individual accused of committing a criminal act is defined as a criminal defendant. The government is responsible for proving beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant is guilty. As a defendant, they also may have legal defenses available to them to prove their innocence. One of these defenses is "diminished capacity."

What Is the Diminished Capacity Defense?

“Diminished capacity” refers to a defendant not being fully responsible for their crime because they possess a mental condition that causes a diminished mental capacity. The mental condition is considered abnormal, and is manifested through:

This type of defense is based on what would be considered abnormal compared to a reasonable, healthy individual.

Is Diminished Capacity the Same as an Insanity Defense?

No. With the insanity defense, the defendant was legally insane at the time of committing the crime. It is a complete defense to the crime. An insanity defense is determined by:

Each defense requires the defendant to prove elements that show they were insane at the time of the crime.

Diminished capacity is an incomplete defense, and it is not based on being insane. Many jurisdictions the diminished capacity defense is a mental defect that serves to mitigate a crime. To mitigate a crime means to lower the charge to a lesser crime. For instance, the defendant may try to change the charge of first-degree murder to second-degree murder, a lesser charge, via mitigation.

Can I Claim Diminished Capacity If I Was Intoxicated at the Time of the Crime?

Yes, you can claim to have a diminished capacity due to intoxication. With an intoxication defense, the defendant claims they ingested an intoxicating substance that made it impossible to form the required intent for the particular crime. Required intent is needed to commit most types of crimes. A defendant can show the intoxicated substance diminished their mental capacity prior to committing the crime, meaning that they could not have possibly have had the requisite intent at the time.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Diminished Capacity Defense?

The defendant has the burden of proving this defense, meaning that they have to show that the diminished capacity really did exist at the time of the crime. Talk to a criminal lawyer to learn more about this defense.

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Last Modified: 09-10-2015 10:44 PM PDT

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