Pleading Guilty with a Mental Illness

When a person is suffering from a mental illness, it can drastically reduce their ability to determine right from wrong, leading some to commit offenses they may have not been predisposed to commit had they been of sound mind. When this occurs, they may think it is best to plead guilty with a mental illness. Since pleading guilty with a mental illness is still pleading guilty, this is something that is best discussed with a qualified attorney prior to the initial appearance or preliminary hearing.

Prevalence of mental illness nationwide

Photo by: A Health Blog

Mental illnesses are experiences by millions throughout the nation. It is estimated that roughly 1 in 5 adults, or more than 40 million Americans suffer from a mental illness each year. Nearly 10 million of those suffer from severe, and often debilitating cases of mental illness. Mental illness can affect an individuals ability to hold down a job, maintain healthy relationships, and overall dramatically reduce the quality of life for the sufferer. Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar and schizophrenia can decrease a person’s ability to understand the gravity of situations and many believe they could lead a person to exhibit criminal behavior outside their control.

Pleading guilty with a mental illness at the time of the offense

Some individuals may realize that they have committed a serious offense, yet felt they were not in a healthy state of mind when the event occurred. If the evidence is stacked against them, they may choose to claim guilty with a mental illness at the time of the offense. According to Utah Code 76-2-305, “it is a defense to a prosecution under any statute or ordinance that the defendant, as a result of mental illness, lacked the mental state required as an element of the offense charged. “This section defines mental illness as “a mental disease or defect that substantially impairs a person’s mental, emotional, or behavioral functioning. A mental defect may be a congenital condition, the result of injury, or a residual effect of a physical or mental disease and includes, but is not limited to, intellectual disability.”

Sentencing with or without treatment

Photo by: Alachua County

When someone is given a verdict of guilty with a mental illness, according to Utah Code 77—16a-104, a hearing will then be conducted to “determine the defendant’s present mental state”. If the person is found to still be suffering from a mental illness, the court would “impose any sentence that could be imposed under law upon a defendant who does not have a mental illness and who is convicted of the same offense and commit the defendant to the department.” The defendant would then be admitted to the Utah State Hospital. Once treatment is completed, the defendant would then be transferred to the UDC (Utah Department of Corrections) to complete their sentencing. Being found guilty with a mental illness it is not a get out of jail free card. It is more of a temporary adjustment as to where the defendant will be serving their sentence.

Still a guilty plea

Utah Code 77-16a-103 gives a note of caution to those pleading guilty with a mental illness, “If the defendant is later found not to have a current mental illness, that plea remains a valid plea of guilty with a mental illness at the time of the offense, and the defendant shall be sentenced as any other offender.” Pleading guilty is still considered admitting fault. This is not something that should be done without proper legal counsel. There are other options available such as pleading guilty to a lesser offense or pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. For anyone facing criminal charges, it is best to speak to a criminal defense attorney to discuss the options available to those suffering from a mental illness.

First Degree Aggravated Arson for Setting Own Apartment on Fire

A Utah man is facing charges for first degree aggravated arson as well as attempted murder for setting his own apartment on fire.

Paranoia unhinged

First Degree Aggravated Arson

Photo by: Denis Dervisevic

Kyle Stinson of West Valley City started a fire in his apartment earlier this month in what was found to be a disturbed and irrational attempt to protect himself from a neighbor. Police determined that Stinson’s neighbor posed no threat whatsoever. Stinson however was found to be the one causing danger as he started a fire in an occupied building and also tried to tie the door of his neighbor shut so they could not escape the apartment complex. Stinson faces charges of first degree aggravated arson and attempted murder.

First degree aggravated arson

Even though the only part of the building damaged was Stinson’s own apartment, Utah Code 76-6-103 states “A person is guilty of aggravated arson if by means of fire or explosives he intentionally and unlawfully damages:

a) A habitable structure; or

b) Any structure or vehicle when any person not a participant in the offense is in the structure or vehicle.”

Additionally, since he tried to tie his neighbor’s door closed after he set his apartment on fire, he is also facing attempted murder. Both charges that Stinson is facing are first degree felonies, each with possible prison terms of five years to life in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

Questionable mental health

Photo by: Mike H

Photo by: Mike H

Since police were not able to find any justification to Stinson’s fears of being harmed by his neighbor, Stinson’s mental health should be questioned. Paranoia to the degree that Stinson’s was suffering from could be caused from drug use, but may have also resulted from an unchecked mental illness. Unfortunately, instead of seeking help for his apparent neurotic disorder or even requesting aid from law enforcement when he thought he was in danger, Stinson took matters into his own hands and now could spend the rest of his life in jail. For those who are facing charges such as first degree aggravated arson or other serious felonies and feel that they were not in their right state of mind during the offense, it is recommended to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Utah Ex-Con Charged with Gruesome Murder in Washington

An ex-con who had served time in a Utah State Prison was charged with the gruesome murder of a Washington State woman last Monday.

Murder and dismemberment

murder

Photo by: tdlucas5000

37 year old John Robert Charlton was charged with the murder of Ingrid Lyne of Renton, Washington after police discovered portions of the woman’s dismembered body in a recycle bin in Seattle. The 40 year old nurse and mother of three daughters had been on a date with Charlton to a Mariner’s baseball game over the weekend but hadn’t been heard of since. When police located the body parts including a head and then received information of the missing woman, they realized the cases were connected and arrested Charlton for murder. More of Lyne’s body parts were then located as well as a saw which was believed to be the tool used to dismember her body.

Was the murder preventable?

When a horrible act is committed, many people may wonder if there was any way the crime could have been prevented. Sometimes crimes catch everyone by surprise, even those closest to the accused. Regarding the murder of Ingrid Lyne however, there are various details in John Charlton’s past that may have been red flags. While these warnings were regrettably not known to Lyne, they might have been recognized by law enforcement and those who have had their own personal dealings with Charlton.

Criminal history

Photo by: Victor

Photo by: Victor

The murder of Ingrid Lyne wasn’t Charlton’s first run in with the law. Prior to Lyne’s murder, in Washington State Charlton had been charged with assault in 1997 and negligent driving in 1998. In 2006, Charlton was convicted and sentenced to 1 to 15 years in the Utah State Prison for felony attempted aggravated robbery. Of that sentence, Charlton served just shy of 2 years before he was released by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole without the supervision of parole officer. Some claim this lack of supervision may have contributed to him being arrested again in 2009 for misdemeanor battery in Idaho and then felony theft in Montana the same year. In Montana he again served time in prison; this time no more than 5 years. There is no information available at this time regarding whether or not Charlton was under the supervision of a Montana parole officer; however some critics of the parole system are doubtful.

Mental uncertainty

Charlton not only had a history of crime, but he also showed signs of being mentally unstable and possibly dangerous as long as 10 years ago. Prior to his arrest in Utah in 2006, Charlton made unsettling threats to his parents at their home south of Seattle. He showed them a copy of the gruesome movie “Hannibal” and eerily cautioned his mom while referencing to it. He also told his parents that he was having a hard time dealing with life and he was questioning his mental stability. Charlton’s parents were so troubled by this encounter with their son that they went as far as to file a restraining order against him although they later dropped it.

Help for the troubled

Photo by: trizoultro

Photo by: trizoultro

While the thought is plausible, it will never be known for sure if the murder of Ingrid Lyne could have been prevented. While many friends or family members may be surprised when someone close to them commits a heinous act, this is one case when there was a growing concern long before multiple lives were changed forever. For those who are in and out of the court systems for various crimes or for those who have anger management issues, alcohol and drug abuse problems, or other mental health concerns, there is help available. Please seek counsel with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney regarding criminal charges and they can also provide you with information regarding mental health services in your area.