Diminished capacity is often included as part of a “mens rea” defense where the defense argues for a lesser degree of culpability (e.g., manslaughter instead of first-degree murder) due to decreased intent. Although they both involve an assessment of a defendant’s mental state at the time of the commission of a crime, a diminished capacity defense is distinct from the insanity defense. In an insanity defense, the defense argues that the defendant lacks the mental capacity “as a result of mental disease or defect” to appreciate the criminality (e.g., wrongfulness) of the act and to conform his/her conduct to the requirements of the law. In a diminished capacity defense, the defense argues that the defendant had a decreased level of intent to commit the act as a result of several possible factors including drug or alcohol intoxication, medication use, and neurological conditions (Melton et al. 2007). The most extreme variant of the diminished capacity defense is the...
References and Readings
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