The term automatism refers to an action performed without conscious control. In a criminal trial, this can be used as an affirmative defense. By showing that the defendant acted involuntarily and without conscious awareness, criminal charges may be reduced or eliminated. The defense centers on the idea that the criminal action was caused by factors beyond the defendant’s control, including psychological and environmental factors.
Examples include performing an act while:
These are just a number of examples. However, because automatism is so similar to the insanity defense, some courts consider automatism to be a species of the insanity defense, while other courts have recognized automatism as a separate affirmative defense.
The automatism defense is justified when the state of unconsciousness was not self-induced or was unavoidable. The state of unconsciousness must be completely uncontrollable and unpredictable for the automatism defense to be justified.
Alternatively, this defense is not justified when the state of unconsciousness was self-induced, avoidable, or foreseen. The defense is not justified if the state of unconsciousness resulted from voluntary actions, such as drugs and/or alcohol.
A criminal defense lawyer will know the laws in your state and exactly when the automatism defense is applicable. A criminal defense attorney can help mount a defense against criminal charges and develop your claim of automatism.
Last Modified: 07-25-2013 05:22 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.