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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77388 Find in a Library
Title: New York's Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1980 - A Forensic Pyschiatric Perspective
Journal: Albany Law Review  Volume:45  Issue:3  Dated:(Spring 1981)  Pages:661-677
Author(s): A L Halpern; S Rachlin; S L Portnow
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 17
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article examines the defects of New York's Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1980 as perceived by three forensic psychiatrists.
Abstract: The intent of the law is to protect the public from dangerous mentally ill persons acquitted of criminal charges while ensuring the treatment and release of patients who are not dangerous. The legislation has had a mixed reception from professional groups involved directly and indirectly with implementation. The law clearly spells out certain pretrial provisions with respect to notice of intent to proffer psychiatric evidence and with respect to examination of the defendant upon application of the prosecutor. However, the court of appeals has never articulated standards or guidance for the presentation of psychiatric evidence in noninsanity defense trials. By virtue of having to demonstrate the presence of insanity under the new law, it may be more likely that those who successfully assert such a defense will have a mental illness. The act completely overhauls section 330.20 of the Criminal Procedure Law, which focuses on disposition following a verdict or plea of not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect. Although seemingly fair procedurally, the provisions are unduly harsh and will make it extremely difficult for an insanity acquittee to obtain release from confinement, regardless of medical recommendations. These provisions specify that if the acquittee is found to have a dangerous mental disorder upon examination, a commitment order must be issued by the court. All persons already hospitalized when the new law became effective are subject to its provisions with respect to transfer and release. Finally, the new law does not adequately address postacquittal procedures; only two placement options are available in New York. The major criticism of the act is that release from confinement is primarily based on judicial rather than psychiatric considerations. The article includes 57 footnotes.
Index Term(s): Criminal responsibility; Forensic psychiatry; Insanity defense; Law reform; Mentally ill offenders; New York; Psychological evaluation; State laws
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