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Do California Courts Consider Diminished Capacity?

When answering to criminal charges, an insanity defense may be met with a great deal of skepticism simply because the definition of insanity may seem so subjective. Plus, there is the issue of whether one struggles with chronic insanity issues, or whether the circumstances of the moment caused them to lose control of their reasoning. 

At the same time, there is little doubt that we all have experienced situations where our emotions got the best of us. Oftentimes, you may find yourself so caught up in the passion of a particular instance that your actions are then dictated by your emotions as opposed to your logic. The question is whether or not this meets the standard of diminished capacity. 

It may ultimately matter little in the state of California. Section 25 of California's Penal Code states that the state does not recognize a defense of diminished capacity.

It is the state's view that the formation of purpose, intent or motive to commit a crime should not be thought of as being impacted by any of the following: 

  • Intoxication
  • Trauma
  • Mental Illness
  • Disease
  • Defect

While not being viewed as a valid defense to criminal activity, diminished capacity can be considered when imposing a sentence. 

All of this is not to say, however, that the state does not give credence to any claims of insanity (even temporary insanity) in criminal matters. You can indeed put forth a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. Be aware, however, that the burden of proof falls to you (and your representation) to present sufficient evidence that shows you were either incapable of comprehending the nature of your actions or unable to distinguish between right and wrong at the time the offense was committed.