Gavel on desk - Legal law symbols

Mental Health and Criminal Defense

Faussette & Faussette PLLC March 28, 2023

Before a defendant can be convicted in an Arizona criminal trial, the prosecuting attorney must establish intent and action. However, it is possible for individuals who have mental health disorders – such as trauma, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia – to commit a crime without any intention. If you or someone close to you is facing criminal charges for an offense linked with mental health issues, you should uphold your rights by hiring an aggressive Arizona criminal defense attorney.  

At Faussette & Faussette PLLC, we are dedicated to offering reliable legal counsel and skilled representation to clients in their criminal cases. Our trusted lawyers can fully explain your legal rights when charged with a crime related to your mental health disorder and strategize a solid defense to help fight your accusations. For immediate assistance, contact our office today.  

Common Mental Health Disorders 

A mental health disorder is a mental health issue or illness which affects the normal reasoning, mood, and behavior of a person. Here are some common mental health disorders: 

  • Depression 

  • Anxiety disorders 

  • Bipolar disorder 

  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders 

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

  • Trauma 

  • Phobias 

  • Panic disorder 

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 

  • Mood disorders 

  • Psychosis 

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) 

  • Addiction and substance use disorder 

  • Schizophrenia 

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder 

Though, the patient may experience moderate, mild, or severe symptoms of mental health disorder. Regardless, mental illness can still make a person commit a crime. A seasoned attorney can assess your case details and explore the possibility of stating mental health as a legal defense in your case. 

Mental Health as a Defense  

In Arizona, the mental illness defense (insanity defense) is an affirmative legal defense that an attorney can use in a criminal case. In order to prove insanity defense, the offender’s attorney must show that the mental health disorder made the defendant: 

  • Unaware of their actions, or 

  • Unable to differentiate between actions that are right or wrong. 

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


Competency is a legal defense which focuses on the alleged offender’s mental limitations at the present time. If the defendant is incompetent to stand trial in Arizona pursuant to Rule 11, the state cannot prosecute them. They will be sent to a mental health facility until they recover. 

Criminal Responsibility 

Conversely, criminal responsibility is an affirmative defense that focuses on the offender’s mental health condition when they committed the offense. The defense counsel will have to establish criminal responsibility by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This may require presenting substantial facts and evidence of persistent or episodic mental health illness. 

Proving Mental Health Claims  

To establish an insanity defense in Arizona, the defense counsel must prove that: 

  • There has been an evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. 

  • There are various testing, examination, observations, diagnosis, and findings to support the mental health disorder or report. 

  • The defendant is incompetent to stand trial and cannot understand the nature or ramifications of their criminal actions. 

  • The defendant is unable to understand the criminal court proceedings and cannot help their defense. 

  • The defendant is unable to know if they are right or wrong. 

A seasoned attorney can work intelligently to establish mental health defense in your case, offer you the effective representation you need, and help you pursue the most favorable outcome for your unique situation. 

Sentencing and Rights of Prisoners With Mental Health Disorders 

In the state of Arizona, there are various alternative sentencing options available to offenders who are suffering from mental health disorders. If the defendant is insane, the court may send them to a term of confinement at the state’s mental health facility. 

Depending on the surrounding circumstances of the crime, the defendant would spend between 75-120 days at the mental health institution. A hearing will be scheduled afterward. The patient would be released provided that they are no longer suffering from their illness in a way that makes them dangerous to others or themselves. 

Understand Your Rights and Protect Your Future 

A mental health disorder can cause a person to behave in unpredictable ways and, unfortunately, sometimes even commit an offense. Nevertheless, such an alleged offender may be arrested and charged for a crime committed due to their otherwise unintended actions. Therefore, when charged with a crime related to your mental illness, retaining a highly-skilled criminal defense lawyer is paramount for detailed guidance. 

At Faussette & Faussette PLLC, we have the knowledge and resources to defend and represent individuals facing mental health-related criminal charges. Our reliable team can investigate all of the facts of your case and help prove mental health disorder as a valid legal defense. Using our in-depth knowledge, we will fight aggressively to defend your legal rights.  

Contact us today at Faussette & Faussette PLLC to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. We can offer you the aggressive representation you need at every phase of the court proceeding. We’re proud to represent clients throughout Phoenix, Goodyear, Peoria, Scottsdale, Mesa, and Glendale, Arizona.