A defendant’s legal team may attempt to use the defense of diminished capacity to limit the criminal liability of the defendant. This type of defense says that the mental capacity of the accused was diminished to the point that he or she did not have the intent required to commit the crime.
The diminished capacity defense is not allowed in many jurisdictions, with the reasoning that the insanity defense should be used to link a mental defect with criminal actions. If the diminished capacity defense is allowed in court, it can only be used for specific intent crimes. Specific intent is an intentional state of mind required to knowingly commit a certain crime.
A plea of diminished capacity would not result in a “not guilty” verdict, rather, the defendant would receive a reduced sentence under federal sentencing guidelines.
A diminished capacity plea is not the same as an insanity plea. A successful plea of insanity will result in a verdict of “not guilty by reason of insanity” and the defendant will be ordered to a mental institution. A successful diminished capacity plea will result in the defendant being convicted of a lesser charge.
“Reason of insanity” is known as an affirmative and complete defense to crimes, whereas “diminished capacity” mitigates the crime and results in a lesser charge conviction.
The defense of “heat of passion” is used for defense of murder or attempted murder. Essentially the defendant had no time to premeditate (think over and/or plan) the attack so it is not possible for the defendant to commit first degree murder.
Instead, the defendant is typically reduced to manslaughter, which is a lesser crime with a reduced punishment. While it is similar to diminished capacity, in the sense that it can reduce the severity of the charges, but it is not a complete defense like insanity.
It is possible to use an intoxication defense as the basis for having diminished capacity in the commission of a crime. A defendant may be able to show that the required intent to commit the crime could not possibly have been present due to the fact that drugs or alcohol diminished their mental capacity.
If you have been accused of a crime, contact a criminal lawyer immediately. An experienced lawyer in your area will be able to advise you of your rights, formulate your defense, and represent your best interests in court.