Based upon British common law and legal precedents, the American legal system allows individuals with severe mental instability to plead not guilty by reason of insanity when charged with a criminal offense. In order to prove this claim, defendants are required to show that their mental capacity at the time of the crime was not sufficient enough in order to establish culpability and responsibility for their actions. Proving insanity is a difficult task, requiring that defendants confess to the crime, convince a jury of their insanity, and pass two independent psychological evaluations before they can be released. Because of these obstacles, it is rare that the insanity defense is used successfully. In Virginia, the insanity defense has rarely been used effectively, with a few notable exceptions. The insanity defense may be used in a recent high profile case that is currently underway in Virginia courts, with the outcome to have significant consequences for the Virginia legal system. By establishing clear guidelines concerning the insanity defense, the Virginia criminal justice system has created an efficient and accurate approach to correctly judge cases involving the insanity defense.

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Criminal Law Commons