Crime Under The Insanity Defense Sample Essay

It is not uncommon to hear about the general populations’ distrust of the legal system; sometimes many even believe that a lot of criminals get away because of legal technicalities, such as the ability to plead insanity for a crime. The real prevalence of the insanity plea may be shocking to the general population, most likely because we only see high profile cases in which the plea may be appropriate but could also be from television or movies. In reality, there is a lot that goes along with being able to plead insanity when one must stand trial. The insanity plea is often thought to be used frequently by those who are up to stand trial for committed crimes, but how frequently is it really used as a tactic of defense and how do we establish the criteria that allows a defendant to plead this defense?

Pleading insanity is often a defense that the general population incorrectly assumes is a common tactic that lawyers use to acquit criminals from the crimes they have been charged with. This misconception is one that is dangerous for the general population to believe for the reason that they might come to distrust the legal system, or maybe even believe they themselves can get away with crimes easily. It is also important to discuss the difference between competency to stand trial and the insanity defense. Competency to stand trial refers to the defendant’s mental state at the time of trial. They must be able to understand the charges, basic knowledge on the roles of the court, and must be able to assist his lawyer in his or her defense (PBS). The insanity defense, instead, attempts to evaluate the defendant’s mental status at the time of the offense and determine if that mental state acquits them of being found guilty (Kumar,Math, Moirangthem). In one study conducted done over a 12-month period in Baltimore City’s superior trial court, researchers examined defendants deciding to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. In that time, they recorded a total number of 11,497 defendants, of which only 1.2% pled insanity. The resulting number of defendants that a judge found not guilty by reason of insanity is minuscule, a measly fourteen. While this may seem like a large number, in comparison to the amount of defendants in the 12-month period, it is not. Defendants successfully using the insanity plea only made up .001% of the total number of the defendants (Janofsky, Rapperport, Vandewalle). These articles demonstrate how seldom this defense is brought up and result in successful acquittals of criminal behavior.

In 1991, a study used data from eight states and researchers found that less than one percent of county court cases brought up the insanity defense. If lawyers believed that the insanity defense would be successful, the amount of defendants using it as a defense tactic would be much higher. Of the defendants who pleaded the insanity defense, only 1 in 4 were successful, about 26% of defendants (Callahan, McGreevy, Robbins, Steadman). Of all the defendants who pled insanity, 90% of them were indeed diagnosed with mental illness, further eliminating the misconception that anyone can fake mental illness and be acquitted of a crime under the insanity defense.

In order to provide more evidence to dispel the myth that the insanity defense is not an easy way to get acquitted of a crime, I point to an article examining the use of the insanity defense. Estimates show that more than 16% of jail inmates have a mental illness. More than that, it is estimated that every year nearly 2 million incoming inmates are people who suffer from mental illness (Bloom, Schaefer). If the insanity defense offered criminals an easy way out due to a technicality than the numbers of perpetrators in jail wouldn’t be as high because more people would be claiming insanity and be found not guilty due to insanity at the time the crime was committed.

Establishing criteria for the insanity defense can be tricky, due to the fact that each state has a different approach to hearing an insanity defense, if it is even an option. Four states in the United States of America do not allow the insanity defense against charges that are criminal in nature and that are brought before the court. The states Montana, Idaho, Kansas, and Utah are among the group that will not hear insanity defenses, however, they do have “guilty but insane” verdicts. To understand how the court begins to judge insanity one must understand the basics of the “requirements for criminal sanction against an individual, mens rea and actus reus” (Coric, Feuerstein, Fortunati, Morgan, Southwick, Temporini). Mens rea has to do with an individual’s intent to commit an act with a certain consequence in mind. The insanity defense aims to prove that certain mental illnesses may handicap a person’s ability to form mens rea. Each state determines a fault in mens rea differently when it comes to the insanity defense and many studies evaluate the similarities and differences between the standards.

Depending on the state, courts use one or multiple tests to determine insanity, each that follow specific guidelines. The M’Naghten Rule is the outcome of what may be regarded as the first and most important case for the insanity plea. Many states use this standard in order to determine insanity. M’Naghten was a man acquitted of a murder charge on this basis that “at the time of committing the act, the party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong” (Meynen 15). This standard is made up of three components which are psychopathology, defect of reason, and lack of knowledge. The M’Naghten Rule may be considered one of the tightest standards of the insanity defense and leaves little room for interpretation or loopholes that would benefit the lawyer of a defendant pleading insanity if their client really wasn’t insane at the time time crime was committed.

Another standard that may be used by a state’s court is the irresistible impulse test which aims to determine if the defendant lacked control over his or her actions at the time of the crime due to mental illness. This test is usually used in combination with the M’Naghten standard evaluated in the court in the two states Virginia and New Mexico (Asokan). The test questions a consultant on whether of not the defendant’s mental disorder was to blame for the inability to refrain from their behavior that resulted in the crime. This test is regardless if the defendant was able to differentiate from right or wrong, it is based solely on their ability to control their impulses.

Another standard that is only used by a small number of states is The Durham Standard, which is only used in New Hampshire and the Virgin Islands. This standard recognizes a finding of insanity “if the defendant’s unlawful act was a product of a mental disease or defect” (Asokan). Both of these standards aren’t used all that much because they expand the parameters of individuals who are able to use the insanity defense.

The last standard that many states use in order to evaluate insanity defenses is the American Law Institutes’ Model Penal Code. The American Law Institute states “a person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality (wrongfulness) of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law” (Myenen 26). This standard was adopted by many states, however, after the perpetrator of the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan was acquitted with this standard, many states reverted back to the M’Naghten standard. Many states may have been smart to keep the M’Naghten standard or to revert back to it because the Model Penal Code “allows leeway for exculpating defendants whose capacity was substantially affected, but who, nevertheless, retained some capacity” (Mynen 26). In one case, a woman was found sane under the M’Naghten standard and she petitioned to the court to abolish the M’Naghten standard and instead adopt the Model Penal Code because she believed it would help her win her insanity defense. The Supreme Court of Mississippi held up the M’Naghten Rule (Geary, Law).

Insanity pleas also face some other complications in the courtroom. Insanity pleas don’t bode well with juries and they have more success on bench trials. When a jury hears insanity, they often have a different belief of what an insane person may look like. Historically, convincing jurors that the defendant proves very tricky. However, when a trial comes before a judge, expert testimony is considered a little more seriously and has a better chance of sticking (Higgins 34). Psychiatrists are almost always involved in insanity cases to give expert opinion on the state of mind the defendant was in. these psychiatrists can either become involved if they were already treating this patient, or if they were called upon as a consultant to evaluate the individual in question (Coric, Feuerstein, Fortunati, Morgan, Southwick, Temporini).

The studies above that were cited synthesize the low use of insanity defenses in national court cases as well as outline how they are determined to be found guilty or not. Overall, the studies conclude that insanity is not easy to plead and lay out a strong argument for the controversial nature of the insanity plea. The prevalence of the insanity defense is very minimal in the court system and the specific definitions and elements that comprise the standards that need to be met work to keep people from recklessly using the insanity defense. It is important the general public understands this defense so they not only have faith in the justice system but also become willing to allow seriously mentally ill people to seek treatment instead of be incarcerated.

Retirement In America Essay

Retirement in America is a very big deal. You start hearing about retiring when you start your first full-time job and are applying for benefits. At this time, most people aren’t concerned about saving their money for the future. Or they are uneducated on why it is important to start as early as possible. What does it mean to retire? Retirement is to withdraw from one’s position or occupation or from active working life (Anspach, 2018). The average age to retire in the United States is 65. Some people are able to retire at the age of 63, but this is considered early retirement. Other individuals work longer, because they need to save more, they feel physically able to, or they just enjoy their job. Unfortunately, without a long-term plan, unless you’re wealthy, then you won’t be able to just randomly stop working as soon as your turn 65. That’s why retirement is talked about as soon as you begin working.

The United States decided in 1935 when it moved to using social insurance, that the retirement age should be 65. At the time, about half of the state pensions systems used age 65 as the retirement age and the other half used the age 70. The year before, Congress passed the Railroad Retirement System which stated retirement was age 65. With those many large entities being age 65, they decided this would be more reasonable than age 70 (Social Security Administration, 2018). In the 1930’s, if you lived to be in your sixties then this was considered a long-life span. Also, people weren’t as healthy, so reaching this age they sometimes weren’t physically able to continue working. Now in 2018, with the large advancements in medical technologies, people tend to live a lot longer and are able to work longer. We are now outliving our later relatives by many years.

Even though the American government has said that the average retirement age is 65, this actually varies by state. Places with a higher cost of living have a higher age, because people have to work longer to be able to afford retirement in their state. States with high unemployment, the average is lower. If they’re unable to find a job, then they might be forced into retirement earlier than planned (Anspach, Average Retirement Age In The United States, 2018). Another factor of people working longer than age 65 is not planning accordingly. Like mentioned earlier, things like this have to be planned and saved for. When starting your first full-time job, retirement is talked about because this is when you should start setting aside money for the future.

When looking into finding a job, it is important to review the benefits offered. Companies that offer a 401(k) plan are great, some employers will even contribute money or match up to a certain percentage that you’re contributing. This is them essentially giving away free money, so it’s something that should definitely be taken advantage of. A traditional 401(k) plan is good, because the money you’re investing is pre-taxed. There is also a Roth 401(k), but the money is taken out of your check after it’s taxed. There are also IRA’s or individual retirement accounts that are sometimes offered through your bank or a third party, these are recommended if your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan (Bank of America Corporation, 2018).

Retirement is definitely not as stress free as the media portrays, unless you’re very wealthy and were able to contribute a lot of money to a plan. The media likes to highlight moving to warmer climates, living in great communities, and making new friends that are around your age. They fail to mention how much these types of places are to live and how much money should have saved over time. With the economy constantly growing, everything is becoming more expensive. Some of the top stressors for retirement according to USA Today are; financial concerns, health worries, caregiving, relationship issues, and super-charged changes (Hellmich, 2014). Unfortunately, most companies aren’t paying their employees the amounts they should be to be able to live comfortably and also save for their future. There are also capacity problems. Since people are living longer, there is more of a wait on availability for retirement communities or homes. A family friend was eligible to live in a low-income apartment for the elderly, the amount was based upon how much you make. She had to wait a few years before she was able to move in, because there is a higher population of older individuals.

Retirement, Social Security, and Medicare are things that the government need to revisit and find better solutions for. These may have been great options when they first were organized, but since then many things have changed, then they’re not as effective now. Even though the thought of retirement is pushed on everyone, it seems that the information you need to achieve it, isn’t as easy. There should be centers where you can go and make a long-term plan with a person, because some older individuals prefer face-to-face contact, rather than researching over the internet. The 401(k) websites try and help you figure out if you’re on track with your savings, but with the economy constantly getting more expensive, then it’s always changing. The government needs to realize that people are living way longer than they used to and can’t be forgotten.

In conclusion, retirement will always be something that people will look forward to. It is something that takes your entire career to plan and save for. Doing your research and making sure you’re on track every year to retire comfortably should be a priority. When contributing to your 401(k) or IRA, you should be upping your amount by 2% every year that goes by. Reevaluating your situation every year and having an end goal is the best way to stay on track with retirement, it is definitely something you can’t start making decisions on when you’re 64 years old. Staying educated on retirement, keeping your debt low, and saving as much money as you can will only benefit you in the end.

Why Are Americans Underprepared For Retirement?

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis 35% of U.S. households have no money saved in any type of retirement account.13 (‘Many Americans Still Lack Retirement Savings | St. Louis Fed’, 2018) The same study also went on to say only half of the households had less than $1,100. Statistics from other studies tell the same story; Americans are not preparing for retirement. Americans who do not plan for retirement will continue working in their late years some working full or part-time jobs. Some will have to depend on their adult children or others. This could cause a financial burden or stress to the earlier generations making it difficult for them to save for retirement. Not saving for retirement could cause some to turn to credit putting themselves into debt. Downsizing and not being able to leave any assets to their children. Most Americans are relying on SSI to be their retirement plan. “97 percent of the elderly (aged 60 to 89) either receive Social Security or will receive it”14 (‘Top Ten Facts About Social Security’, 2018), according to Social Security Administration estimates. The problem with that is social security is supposed to provide a foundation, a supplement for retirement. Living on the fixed income of SSI alone still leaves Americans vulnerable to economic hardships. SSI is designed to replace less than half of a person average salary.

The government has created a social net already in the form of SSI. One of the reasons the government is involved in SSI is that there are some people in the country who can no longer work or are disabled. This will lead to many retirees facing difficult financial issues. “The cost is the instability in the capitalist system, the tendency for the economy to periodically plunge into recessions”1 (‘Commentary: How social welfare benefits help the economy’, 2018). SSI has a purpose, but the purpose has not been made clear by the government. People have been using SSI as a crutch instead of as a base. The government should be the one to adjust this mentality as they are the ones most Americans view as their retirement account.

Counting on SSI isn’t the only reason Americans are not planning for retirement. Thinking about retirement isn’t paramount when you are in your 20’s and 30’s. There is no urgency to plan and save. This could be because of optimism for the future, paying off other debts first (student loan, car loan, credit cards, etc.), or they are just not good savers to being with. Not having enough money to save towards a retirement plan another reason why people do not save. Millennials get caught up in college debt and entry-level salaries, or at jobs that do not offer 401(k)s that they can afford to put away an extra $200 in savings.

“The shift from defined benefit pension plans to employee-directed defined contribution 401(k)s is the major driver of the impending retirement crisis.”2(‘Americans Haven’t Saved Enough for Retirement. What Are We Going to Do About It?’, 2018). Employers wanted to avoid risk in guaranteeing pensions .401(k)s put the risk on the employee picking his/her own contribution plan. A pension provides more protection for a person from outliving their savings. A worker who has a 401(k) doesn’t have a clear idea of how much is the right amount to set aside. Financial literacy in dealing with a 401(k) is contributors to why middle-age Americans retirements plan are underfunded. Living above ones means as well as not saving sooner is also what leads to the problem of retiring poor.

The government needs to intervene further to ensure that all Americans are prepared for retirement because “more than 30 million full-time, full-year workers between the ages of 18 and 64 without access to an employer-based retirement plan.”3 (‘Government’s Role in Helping Americans Save for Retirement’, 2018). If the government does not intervene there will be millions of elderly Americans in poverty. This will cause a cyclical recession in America. There is a market failure in government-run SSI and in the private sector as well for retirement thus government intervention is necessary.

There are three main ways of retirement’s plans in America Social Security, employer-sponsored pensions or retirement savings plans, and individual savings, but still, Americans are at risk of being under prepared. Individual failures because of behavioral basis; where Americans are not making rational choices about saving even though being aided by some government programs. Time discounting and present basis is the behavioral tendency where people prefer immediate rewards vs future payouts. Different types of retirement plans and incentives have been proposed and executed by both the private sector and the public sector, but still, most Americans cannot retire by the age of 65. Financial literacy is linked to temporal discounting. “According to the 2018 annual report of the Social Security Board of Trustees, the trust funds that disburse retirement, disability, and other Social Security benefits will be depleted by 2034.”4(, 2018). The demographics of the people who pay into SSI are shifting. Low birth rates meaning fewer people paying into SSI and baby boomers living longer collecting SSI longer, the younger generation cannot expect to receive SSI when it’s time for them to retire. The way SSI is collected, disbursed, and perceived will need to change with the times. The government needs to intervene in retirement plans because the outdated form of pay as you go SSI is no longer sustainable. “Social Security benefit payments support more than 9 million jobs and add almost $1.4 trillion in output to the overall American economy.”5 (Koenig and Myles, 2013) the government should intervene in retirement planning to relieve some of the burdens off SSI. SSI program supports/ provide millions of jobs, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute just by cutting SSI by 25% (as a project for 2033 ) could cost the U.S. economy about 2.3 million jobs and keeps 22 million people out of poverty. High unemployment will lead to higher reliance on government assistance and welfare programs, decrease economic growth, decrease in tax revenue due to less consumer consumption, to make up for less income tax governments will tax business more, the business then will be discouraged from hiring more workers perpetuating unemployment.

Americans not saving for retirement would cause massive poverty and underemployment. Americans cannot rely on SSI as it is projected to have massive funding cuts. The government needs to intervene to avoid millions of people who will not receive enough SSI and have insufficient savings from being in poverty.

Retirement is something everyone knows they should prepare for, but most do not save for until too late in life. To get Americans into the habit and mindset of saving and planning for retirement as soon as possible I suggest the government teach children in schools as soon as possible about their options and consequence and rewards of being responsible for their future years. The class can be offered either as an elective in high school or a requirement. The same way college is pushed and focused on as early as middle school so should financial literacy about saving, budgeting, debt, and investing. According to The National Institute on Retirement Security, a big reason why most Americans are not putting money aside for retirement is that they have debt they like to payoff.6 (Brown, 2018)

If young people are taught about debt in school before they take out loans then they can make better financial decisions. The hope is young people will have a deeper understanding that there is gives and takes with loans being yes they get cash quickly and easily but this will delay/stunt their retirement contributions. The government can offer incentives for keeping and contributing to a retirement plan throughout middle school and high school and even college. For instance, the government can offer higher interest rates for people under the age of 26. To get parents incentivized to also teach saving and planning for retirement at home for x amount of dollars your child has saved for retirement the parents can have that amount wrote off in taxes. Building the habit of saving while in school will make more dependent future retires. The class taught in school should also teach high schoolers about what is already being offered by the government currently like credit savers. By starting young and building habits this can help combat some of the present basis and procrastination.

Financial literacy shouldn’t stop at school. The government should offer free retirement workshops or guidance on updated retirement incentive offered by the government. The impact of doing these would be that schools would have to hire a qualified financial advisor to be teachers. The economy as a whole will benefit to have better-educated youth who will be financially literate and prepared for retirement. Young adults when applying for jobs will better understand their savings options with their employers and will feel an urgency to enroll and save.

SSI is the biggest contributor to the elderly’s source of income. And 175 million Americans pay into SSI. Americans cannot be trusted to save and invest for their retirements voluntarily and/or alone as there are market failures that disrupt their savings. In 2008 many people lost their retirements/pensions because of the financial crisis. Causing people without jobs to pull from their savings and once again relying solely on SSI. Raising the age of retirement, raising taxes are some of the ideas being advocated for. “Economist Marc Goldwein, senior policy director at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget advocates for having more people paying into the program, not just people who are currently working”8(Cornfield, 2018). Propose Americans who have retirements incomes of over $200,000 should be excluded from taking in SSI this is the plan present by Gov. Chris Christie. And retirees whose income is $80,000 – $200,00 would see a reduction in their SSI payouts. SSI is for people who need it. This is “The ability-to-pay principle the trade-off here is the notion of fairness.

The impact of raising the age is there is an assumption that everyone is living longer which isn’t true for minorities or the poor so there is an unfair age requirement being put on the people who would need it most. Raising taxes to coverage SSI would be a hard sell for policymakers as it is very unpopular, and the generations of people who feel like they will not receive it anyways will not vote for such a tax raise. Excluding certain classes of people from receiving something, they are “entitled” too would make them find ways around paying into it, or hiring a lobbyist to fight on their behalf. By doing any of these options there will be many people upset.

The government can incentivize employers to automatically enroll their employees into 401(k)s as opt-out. This is like what President Obama proposed separately from his “myRA accounts” . Opt-out plans will have more Americans automatically contributing to their retirement as the default. The higher rate the employee invests the more tax break the employer gets. This policy could either incentivize or punish employers. We know that people are loss averse so to get the best results a tax or fee should be placed on employees who have over 250 who do not offer a retirement plan. The current 2.7% match of an employee’s contribution is not enough of an incentive for employees to sign up or save. So, the burden should be on the employer to encourage workers to contribute more than just the minimum. If the average worker at a company does contribute at least 12% then the company will not be fined. “ Participants generally agreed that the retirement crisis can’t be fixed by tweaks and “nudges” designed to subtly spur workers to save more.”10(‘How to solve the retirement crisis’, 2018)

The impact on the employee is possible unwanted pressure from the employers to contribute more than they are comfortable it at the time. The impact on the employer is feeling an overreach from the government. The employers will have a higher overhead cost from running retirement programs. The employer will need extra education to learn the penalties. Phasing in this policy would require invest groups to also adapt their plans to accommodate companies.

Of the three policies, I have proposed I would recommend option#1 teaching financial literacy earlier in life at school. The reason I would choose this policy because this is the only policy where there is currently a void. There are ready advocates trying to save SSI and business are currently getting incentives to offer retirement accounts. Personal responsibility for one’s future should be mostly on the individual. The retirement problem is rooted in procrastination and government reliance. Repetition of planning, saving, and budgeting will make kids, teens, and young adults think preparing for the future is automatic and expect. According to a survey conducted by Ramsey Research in 2016, “nearly two out of three high school students who had taken a personal finance course reported they were already earning an average of $3,000 a year.”11(‘Students and Money – from Ramsey Solutions Research’, 2018). In the same study by Ramsey research where financial literacy was taught in school, “nearly 80% of the students said they understood how a 401(k) works and have their own bank accounts”. Currently, five states require students to take a personal finance course, I propose all 50 states require so. “It was found that mandated personal finance education in high school improved the credit scores and reduced the default rates of young adults.”12(Brown, Collins, Schmeiser, and Urban, 2014).Parents aren’t always the best teachers when it comes to finances so having a qualified teacher would not only benefit the child, but America as a whole because what that student learns will translate to real life behavior. Young adults are more likely to save and avoid debt when taught how in school. They will see SSI as what it is, a supplement to their retirement.


The government’s role in the economy is to promote economic stability and the role of an economist is to maximize welfare. Option #1 does both without harming others or having an over-reaching government. The expected outcome of teaching financial literacy in school is more educated Americans that thinking rationally about planning for retirement. I expect people who were taught at a young age about finances to overcome their behavior basis and save enough money to retire using SSI as a foundation vs. a life raft. In this paper the main takeaways are, an overwhelming majority of Americans are dependent on SSI. Most Americans under-save for retirement. SSI will be cut leaving many at risk of poverty, the economy at risk of a deep recession. The government needs to intervene to avoid a recession, high unemployment rates, and decrease economic growth. I proposed teaching financial literacy in school to fix the problem of retirement before it’s too late. I proposed protecting/saving SSI because too many people depend on it. Lastly, I proposed penalizing employers for not offering retirement plans or adequate investments averages from employees. Each policy would have different expect reactions for taxpayers, employers, and SSI recipients. There are many types of retirement plans I have not discussed in this paper, many tax loopholes and suggestions on how to distribute SSI. The point of this paper is not to explain how to take advantage of these plans but to address the need for drastic change in the way Americans plan for retirements. A good starting point would be preparing the younger generations to have an always be a prepared mindset in personal finance.