A lot of people believe that if you are insane, you can't be sent to jail to pay for your crime. But that's not true.
The issue has come up once again as a result of the Tucson shootings, where there has been speculation that Jared Loughner may plead insanity and be sent to a mental hospital and not have to do time.
Everyone has heard of the insanity defense. It is a legal maneuver by defense attorneys to try to keep their clients from going to jail. But some people mistakenly think that just because someone is "insane" they can therefore get off the hook. The idea is that a person who is insane cannot appreciate the criminality of his act, and therefore cannot be held responsible for it. And if you are not responsible for your actions, then you cannot be punished for them.
It seems to be a simple matter of justice.
But here's the problem with the issue of insanity and the law: the legal definition of insanity and the psychological definition of insanity are not the same. You can be psychologically "insane," but not legally "insane."
A person is considered legally insane if he either a) cannot appreciate the criminality of his act or b) cannot conform his behavior to the law. But there are a whole host of psychological conditions commonly referred to as "insane" that do not meet either of these criteria in and of themselves. In fact, the term "insanity" is even a psychological term. It is a legal term.
A person can be psychotic, manic depressive, paranoid, bipolar, suffer from an anxiety disorder, or even be schizophrenic and appreciate the criminality of his actions and be able to conform his behavior to the law.
You can be as nutty as a fruitcake and not be insane