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An acquittal by reason of insanity is sufficiently adverse and is in many ways more akin to a conviction than to an outright acquittal. Although not technically punishment, it involves substantial infringement of rights. The legal literature has devoted significant space to the issue of a criminal defendant’s competence to stand trial and to the issue of the insanity plea. The problem of a pretrial insanity acquittal of an incompetent defendant, on the other hand, has not been extensively examined. In undertaking that task, this article will, in Part II, review the law and practice of competency determinations. Part III will address the adverse consequences of an insanity acquittal. Part IV will examine the relevant provisions of the Model Penal Code and the ABA Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards. Part V considers various state court decisions in which this issue had arisen.


Originally published by the Oklahoma Law Review in 1997.