A defendant’s psychological state should be given consideration especially on criminal cases that may have been influenced by his/her mental health and to determine whether it is caused by a psychological condition which is beyond the control of the defendant. This is often referred to as criminal responsibility (Bittman & Convit, 1993). The competence to stand trial can also be established by psychiatric diagnosis but it is rare for criminal defendants except if the defendant is suffering from psychosis or has mental retardation or cognitive delays. Examples of criminal behavior that may warrant psychiatric diagnosis of the defendant are unpremeditated murder or homicides, physical assault or serious injuries, vehicular manslaughter or even stealing, shoplifting and kidnapping.
It is important to make a distinction between what psychiatric conditions warrants closer scrutiny that can be used to support the defendant’s trial. Psychiatric disorders (Simon & Gold, 2004) like bipolar disorders which have a tendency for violence and unpredictable behavior, mental disorders like schizophrenia which is prone to hallucinations and delusions of persecution may impair their judgment and feel threatened by others and hence may kill or harm others or their selves. Individuals who suffer from sleep disorders like apnea may fall asleep anytime and hence can cause accidents on the road and may inadvertently result to death. Conditions like delusions caused by traumatic events or loss of loved ones or miscarriages and depression may move individuals to kidnap a child or someone they believe would take the place of the lost loved one. Psychiatric conditions which has neurological basis and which seriously impairs the ability of the person to think logically, to make objective decisions usually commit crimes once in their lifetime and do not have the compulsion to kill or hurt others (Watt & ? MacLean, 2003). They can benefit from a psychiatric evaluation to be presented during their trials. This would indicate that they do not have control over their actions and one cannot be ascribed absolute guilt or be punished in the same way as “sane” criminals. Psychiatric illness may assume that the defendant is not aware of his/her actions but only to a certain degree (Bittman & Convit, 1993).
Other conditions found commonly on serial killers, sex offenders, murderers, rapists and sociopaths should not be given any consideration since these states do not impair their ability to think, to plan, to stalk their victims, to be methodical and to feel no guilt or remorse after their crimes (Simon & Gold, 2004). Defendants who fall on these categories should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and appeals about their psychological incapacity to think objectively or even a claim of insanity should not be entertained because they basically can think and plan their actions to culminate in the death or rape of their targeted victims.
It is important to first determine what the crime is about, is it a result of a psychiatric illness or is it motivated by the need of the defendant to kill. The option to have the defendant be evaluated as to his/her mental health therefore should be given only to cases wherein the defendant has prior records of psychiatric illness or which have been exhibiting symptoms of psychological distress. It is important to give them the right to be evaluated by competent psychiatrists as this would help them to get treatment rather than to be placed in prison and not be given the psychiatric attention they need. This option could also be easily abused by other defendants in order to escape from the consequences of their criminal acts (Watt & ? MacLean, 2003), which is why it is important that it should be given only to defendants who clearly have neurological-psychiatric illnesses.