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Legal Definitions and the Courts: Insanity Defense

In many ways, the legal definitions used by forensic psychology professionals are a reminder that the court system exists separate from the field of forensic psychology. Although the general public may use the term insanity to denote abnormal psychological functioning, it is actually not a psychological term but, instead, a legal term with a very specific legal definition. This week's application familiarizes you with two different definitions of the legal term of insanity and how, depending on which one is used, different court rulings may result. You also explore how legal definitions impact the role of the forensic psychology professional in general and in the courts.

Compare these two definitions and consider the relevance of the similarities and differences of each. Think about the impact the legal definition of insanity has on the role of the forensic psychology professional in general and in the courts.

Analyze and compare (similarities and differences) the two definitions of insanity you reviewed.
Analyze and evaluate the relevance and importance of legal definitions to the forensic psychology professional. Justify your response by using the literature.
Analyze and explain the impact of legal definitions on forensic psychology professionals.
Analyze and explain the impact of legal definitions on the role of forensic psychology professionals in the courts.
Explain any insights or conclusions you came to based on your comparison of the two definitions of insanity you reviewed.

Solution Preview

Dear Student,
Hi and thank you for using Brainmass. In this particular task, you are asking for help in putting together a discussion on t5he topic of insanity. I suggest using this simple outline:

1. The Definitions of insanity - 100 words
2. Impact in forensic psychology practice and the courts - 150 words
3. Impact on court role - 100 words
4. Insight - 100 words

Since you did not indicate the definitions utilised in your course, I have highlighted 2 most common since they are utilised in courts often. This outline should yield 450 words which should cover what you need. Just let me know via the feedback section if you need further clarification. You can also use the listed resources to further explore the topic. All the best with your studies.

AE 105878/Xenia Jones

The Insanity Defense

From the Law Dictionary (2015):
"Insanity - n. mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior. Insanity is distinguished from low intelligence or mental deficiency due to age or injury. "

From Williams (2012):
"Criminal law requires that to be held criminally responsible for most legal violations, a defendant must be sufficiently proven to have committed the act in question (actus reus) and furthermore, to have had the necessary state of mind or intent when committing that act (mens rea). A plea of insanity is not intended to challenge the prosecution's claim that the defendant committed the illegal act, but to challenge the prosecution's claim that the defendant possessed the legally required state of mind during commission of that act to be found guilty."

In the US and much of the Western legal systems, an individual who is found to be mentally incapacitated or is having a mental health episode at the time of his or her criminal action can be found not guilty by reason of that psychiatric or mental handicap (thus, insanity). In the US, the legal definition of insanity is pretty similar with a few differences dependent upon the test utilised to determine insanity. The defendant may plead insanity in federal court and in every state with the ...

Solution Summary

The solution provides information, assistance and advise in tackling the task (see above) on the topic of insanity and its legal definitions, with a focus on the M'Naghten Rule and Model Penal Code test. Resources are listed for further exploration of the topic.