The details of the process varies from state to state, but generally speaking states share a similar process following a plea or a jury verdict of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity.
What is NGRI?
A verdict or finding of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) means that due to a mental disease or defect the person either didn’t understand the wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the crime or was unable to conform his behavior to the requirements of the law. What this means is that it must be shown that because a person had such a serious mental illness, he or she was unable to stop from committing the crime or didn’t understand that what he was doing was wrong.
Steps after a NGRI finding.
After someone is found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity, they are usually sent to a state-run psychiatry facility for a short period of time to be evaluated to confirm that they are still in need of treatment. In the vast majority of cases, the answer to this question is “yes”. However, it’s conceivable that someone could have had a temporary condition which has been fixed and doesn’t require further treatment (e.g., extremely low potassium).
If the person is found to be in need of mental health treatment, they will then be committed to the custody of a state mental health facility for an indeterminate period of time, which could continue for the rest of the person’s life. Often times these hearings are held in the probate court or other court which deals with guardianship proceedings.
Following the initial commitment, the court will review the person’s case on regular intervals to evaluate progress and determine whether the person need continued treatment. Many states have a tiered process where the person found NGRI starts in a secured hospital (e.g., hospital inside a jail), then moves to a less secure hospital facility, and eventually to an adult foster care setting. If the person who is found NGRI is compliant with treatment and progresses well, he or she can ultimately be released without having a criminal history.
NGRI isn’t a cake walk.
Before trying to assert an insanity defense, one should consider the possible penalty if convicted. For example, if you’re charged with a two year felony, you’re almost certain to spend more time in “custody” on a NGRI plea than a conviction. It is common for NGRI pleas to result in decades of hospitalization.
If you’re considering a defense of insanity, you should discuss it with an criminal lawyer, consult with a qualified forensic psychiatrist or psychologist.