One legal issue that sparks controversy is the insanity defense, with insanity having a legal meaning but no medical definition. The argument that a person accused of a crime is not guilty because that person cannot con-trol his or her actions or cannot understand the wrong-fulness of the act is known as the M’Naghten Rule. When the person meets the criteria, he or she may be found guilty by reason of insanity. The public perception of the insanity defense is that it is used in 33% to 45% of major criminal cases and that it is usually successful; that is, the person accused of the crime “gets off” and is free imme-diately (Melton, Petrila, Poythree, & Slobogin, 2007). In actuality, this defense is used in only 0.9% (9 in 1,000) of all criminal cases and is successful in less than 20% of those cases.
Four states—Idaho, Kansas, Montana, and Utah—have abolished the insanity defense. Thirteen states, including Idaho, Kansas, Montana and Utah, have a law allowing a verdict of guilty but insane. Ideally, this means that the person is held responsible for the criminal behavior but can receive treatment for mental illness. Critics of this ver-dict, including the APA, argue that people do not always receive needed psychiatric treatment and that this verdict absolves the legal system of its responsibility.