Diminished Capacity and Domestic Violence

Diminished Capacity and Domestic Violence

Special Circumstances for Criminal Behavior

During the criminal prosecution process, the district attorney typically has to prove certain elements in the case in order to convict the defendant. In some crimes, the district attorney must prove the defendant had criminal intent to reach a conviction. Criminal intent means the person had the intent to commit the crime and they were culpable for it. With domestic violence offenses, the district attorney must prove the defendant knowingly and willingly committed the offense; in other words, they meant to hurt or abuse the victim. The intent to commit the crime is an essential element in domestic violence cases because harming someone else is something that we can accidently or unknowingly do. The prosecution may not be able to convict a defendant if intent could not be proven.

Intent to commit a crime may seem like something that can be assumed, but not all people have the full mental capacity to form criminal intent. This could be caused by mental disorders or illnesses that compromise someone’s ability to make the decision to commit a crime. This is called diminished capacity. Defendants who had diminished capacity at the time they committed the crime may be able to use it as a defense in court. Typically, this defense will not absolve the defendant of all responsibility, but it may result in him or her being charged with a lesser crime.

There are not many instances where diminished capacity would serve as a defense to a criminal charge. Though many people suffer from mental illness, intent doesn’t need to be proven in all criminal cases. Sometimes the prosecution has to prove other things such as recklessness or negligence to convict the defendant. One of the categories of crimes that diminished capacity has proven to be a successful defense for is in domestic violence cases. Certain domestic conflicts can be caused by a mental illness or disorder. Even a sudden acute mental disorder can be a reason to use the diminished capacity defense under certain circumstances. I’ll use the most common example to demonstrate this: A husband initiates a domestic violence confrontation after finding his wife in bed with another man. This type of crime is also sometimes referred to as a crime of passion as it was committed during heightening emotional states. The resulting emotional reaction may inhibit sound reasoning and logic. Thus, if someone were to commit a domestic violence offense during this state, he may not have fully formed intent to commit the crime. Likewise, he probably did not set out to commit the crime and it was not premeditated.

To be able to make a claim for diminished capacity, the crime must have an element of intent. For example, many people who have mental illness or disorders may have diminished capacity and so, under the eyes of the law, are not fully capable of having the intent to commit a crime. If a defendant has a mental illness or disorder, he or she may have a reason to use the diminished capacity defense.

It isn’t easy to use the diminished capacity defense for a domestic violence offense, especially if you have a mental illness or disorder. If you are facing domestic violence charges, speak with a California domestic violence defense attorney about your case. Facing domestic violence charges can be intimidating. No one should have to do it alone. An attorney can act as your advocate and help you navigate the criminal court process. A domestic violence case involving a claim for diminished capacity could go to trial. It is particularly important to have an experienced criminal trial attorney by your side as you navigate the trial process. Making a claim for diminished capacity may require expert testimony, witness accounts, and depositions from you. An attorney can coordinate the necessary supportive statements and prepare you to tell your side of the story.

If you are in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area and have questions about domestic violence charges, call experienced domestic violence defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we know how to raise a strong defense and can help you do so. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, attorney Martens is ready to defend your rights.  Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at MartensLaw@gmail.com to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.

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