Mentally ill individuals have an increased risk of acting passionately or violently. Unfortunately, the disruptive behavior caused by their mental health condition can cause the person to commit a crime, even without any intent. Thankfully, the Georgia criminal justice system takes mental capacity into consideration and protects defendants from getting unjustly punished for their otherwise unintentional actions.

The Law Office of Jay G. Wall is dedicated to offering reliable representation and skilled advocacy to individuals with mental illness in their criminal cases. As an experienced Georgia criminal defense attorney, Jay can investigate every aspect of your unique situation and strategize a strong defense to fight your charges. The firm is proud to serve the communities of Woodstock, Cartersville, Marietta, and Canton, Georgia.

Common Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders comprise different mental health illnesses that affect the behavior, thinking, and emotions of an individual. Some common mental health illnesses that are usually associated with defendants facing criminal charges include:

  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Trauma
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Mood disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Phobias
  • Addiction and substance use disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

However, the aforementioned mental illness symptoms can occur moderately, mildly, or seriously in patients. When serious enough, they can cause the person to act disruptively, recklessly, or break the law without feeling remorseful. A reliable attorney can assess all of your case details and determine if you can use mental health or insanity defense as a legal defense in your case.

Mental Health as a Defense

In Georgia, the mental capacity or insanity defense is an affirmative defense that may be used by a legal counsel in a criminal case. According to Georgia law:

“A person shall not be found guilty of a crime if, at the time of the act, omission, or negligence constituting the crime, the person did not have the mental capacity to distinguish between right and wrong in relation to such act, omission, or negligence.”

In other words, insanity may be used as a legal defense provided that the defendant didn’t have the mental capacity to distinguish between actions that are right or wrong. The defendant’s attorney will be required to establish the insanity defense by a preponderance of the evidence.

Classification of Mental Health Defense

Also, mental health defenses can be categorized into competency and criminal responsibility.


Competency is a legal defense that emphasizes the defendant’s mental limitations currently. Essentially, defendants with mental illness who are unable to stand trial in Georgia will be committed to a state mental hospital for adequate treatment.

Criminal Responsibility

Criminal responsibility is an affirmative legal defense that emphasizes the defendant’s mental health condition at the time of committing the crime. To establish criminal responsibility, the defendant’s lawyer must prove (through evidence) that the accused person suffered from persistent or episodic mental health illness. In other words, in order to be fully responsible for the crime, the defendant has to be mentally competent enough—even if they did it.

In both situations, the court may order a licensed psychologist or department physician to evaluate the defendant’s mental condition.

Proving Mental Health Claims

However, in order to prove insanity defense as a legal defense in the state of Georgia, the defendant’s attorney must show three things:

  • The defendant lacked the mental capacity to distinguish between right and wrong with respect to the act, negligence, or omission.
  • The defendant acted due to a delusional compulsion caused by their mental illness, which overpowered their will to resist perpetrating the criminal act.
  • The defendant is unable to understand the legal process.

A dependable criminal defense attorney can gather substantial evidence and facts to help prove your insanity defense and represent you diligently at every stage of the criminal court proceeding.

Sentencing and Rights of Prisoners With Mental Health Disorders

Under Georgia law, a defendant who is found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial shall be evaluated by the department physician or licensed psychologist to determine whether they can achieve mental competency to stand trial in the future.

Based on the recommendations of the mental health expert, defendants with no probability of attaining mental competency will be processed for civil commitment or release. Eligible defendants will be released from the civil commitment based on the court’s order and specified procedures.

Need Representation? Contact the Law Office of Jay G. Wall

In Georgia, mentally ill defendants who are facing criminal accusations may be able to establish their innocence through the insanity defense. However, proving mental capacity as a legal defense can be very difficult. Therefore, hiring a highly-skilled criminal defense attorney is crucial for proper guidance and to help build your defense strategy.

Attorney Jay G. Wall has the diligence and expertise to defend and represent individuals with mental health disorders in their criminal cases. Using his extensive knowledge, Jay can investigate every aspect of your case, decide if you can use mental capacity defense, or explore your other available legal defenses. Above all, Attorney Jay G. Wall will fight vigorously to uphold your freedom, attempt to pursue alternative sentencing, reduce punishment, or ultimately get the judge to dismiss the case.

Contact the Law Office of Jay G. Wall today to schedule a simple case assessment with a reliable criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Jay G. Wall can walk you through the Georgia criminal defense system and help you pursue the most favorable outcome in your case. The firm proudly serves clients across Woodstock, Cartersville, Marietta, and Canton, Georgia.