This week, our criminal lawyers discuss a Marylander's worry over their nephew's mental health and a crime committed during a mental crisis:
The Question: What can be done if someone commits a crime while in the midst of a manic episode/mental health crisis? Can charges be lessened?
18-year-old broke into someone's house and stole a purse during a manic episode. Turned himself in. Charged with 1st-degree burglary and offered a plea deal.
Submitted documentation supporting bipolar diagnosis. Nephew's lawyer says because he was charged in a specific county, the charges would've been less if "they believe in mental illness there. In this county, they don't."
Nephew also claims that he was intimidated/coerced into his confession and was not read his Miranda rights. What can be done? Also, is what that guy's lawyer said about mental illness and charge severity true?
The Answer: Pursue mitigation -- won't excuse the behavior, but explains it. Different counties are "tougher" and take less account into mitigating factors. (Why it pays to have an attorney who knows the local county, courts, commissioners, and judges!)
Our mental health is becoming an increasingly hot topic. With the recent move in Maryland to reform policing, the subject has turned towards how to handle cases of mental distress better.
In your case, your nephew committed a burglary while in a manic episode because of his bipolar condition. Since a crime occurred, law enforcement must be involved. Your nephew took a proper first step and admitted his wrongdoing by turning himself in to authorities.
What can be done is to pursue mitigating circumstances to explain your nephew's criminal act. Mitigating factors help interpret why the defendant did what they did but do not excuse the behavior or crime. There will still be consequences to face, just a fact of life. Mitigating factors may lead to a more favorable ruling or punishment.
How each jurisdiction accounts for mitigation will differ, which is why your nephew still faces the 1st-degree burglary charges in the county charged. That county takes less account into mitigating factors and is tougher on crimes, regardless of mental health.
Attorney's are well networked in the justice system they serve and know the ins and outs of the different jurisdictions. They will understand if mitigating factors can decrease the severity of a charge or the penalty handed out.
It is always a good idea to hire an attorney with good connections because they know which judges, commissioners, courts, and counties take mitigating factors into account when charging suspects and can help pursue those factors to get a better outcome.
Soon, Maryland judges and attorneys will be participating in courses to address mental health concerns in the judicial system, which will lead to a better understanding of how to handle criminal matters involving mental health conditions.
Our automatic disclaimer: We're lawyers, but not necessarily your lawyer, and do not represent the individual who asked this question. We're providing this information for general educational purposes based on the publicly available information provided by the anonymous Internet user. Any number of details may change how this individual's attorney may pursue this legal situation, differently from how we suppose above. If you have a similar question, then you should consult with a lawyer about your specific situation to get a "real" response!