The Insanity Defense in Florida

We all have heard of the “insanity defense”, but what does it really mean in Florida? Claiming the defendant was insane at the time of a criminal offense is considered an affirmative defense, meaning the defendant is asserting it.

If the insanity defense is claimed in trial, a jury must determine whether the person was insane. Under Florida law, a person is to be considered insane when:

1. He or she had a mental infirmity, disease, or defect.

2. Because of this condition

a. he or she did not know what he or she was doing or its consequences or

b. although he or she know what he or she was doing and its consequences, he or she did not know it was wrong.

A defendant who believed what he or she was doing was morally right is not insane if the defendant knew what he or she was doing violated society’s standards or was against the law. All people are presumed sane and it is the defendant’s burden to prove the defense of insanity by clear and convincing evidence. Clear and convincing evidence is defined as evidence that is precise, explicit, lacking in confusion, and of such weight that it produces a firm belief, without hesitation, about the matter in issue.

If a jury believed a defendant was insane at the time he or she committed the crime, they should find him or her not guilty by reason of insanity.