Arizona GEI Defense

Insanity Defense in Arizona (GEI)

In Arizona, the Insanity Defense is known as Guilty Except Insane, or GEI.

GEI pleas are an affirmative defense against criminal charges that require the defendant to show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was suffering from a serious “mental disease or defect” at the time the crime was committed and that it was so severe that the defendant did not acknowledge the wrongfulness of his or her actions.

While many conditions could count as a “mental disease or defect,” there are many conditions that are not legally viable for a GEI defense, such as acute or voluntary intoxication or withdrawal from alcohol or drugs, psychosexual disorders and impulse control disorders. Other conditions that do not constitute legal insanity include “momentary, temporary conditions arising from the pressure of the circumstances, moral decadence, depravity or passion growing out of anger, jealousy, revenge, hatred or other motives in a person who does not suffer from a mental disease or defect or an abnormality that is manifested only by criminal conduct.”

The nature of the case involved determines at this point which of two paths the GEI pleading defendant will follow. The determining factor is whether the case involves actual or threatened death or serious bodily harm.

Cases Involving Actual or Threatened Death or Serious Bodily Harm

If a case involves actual or threatened death or serious bodily harm and the defendant raises the GEI defense, the court must first determine if a reasonable basis exists for the plea. If the court believes there is a reasonable basis for the GEI plea, the court may either appoint a qualified mental health expert to evaluate the defendant, or the court may have the defendant committed for as long as 30 days to a secure, qualified, state-run mental health facility for evaluation. The evaluator, in either case, will provide a copy of their report for the court, and both the State and the defense counsel.

If the defendant is found to be GEI by the finder of fact (either the judge in a bench trial or the jury in a jury trial) the court is required to sentence the defendant to a term of confinement equal to the length of time they would have served had they been found guilty. This term of confinement is calculated without the addition of sentence enhancers like prior felonies.

The defendant will serve his term of confinement in a mental health facility rather than a state prison, during which the defendant will be placed and remain under the jurisdiction of and periodically reviewed by the superior court. If the superior court finds the person to be restored to a mental state where they are safe to rejoin society, they may be conditionally released into the community. The superior court will continue to maintain jurisdiction over the individual for the term of confinement.

Cases Not Involving Actual or Threatened Death or Serious Bodily Harm

If the court finds that the case does not involve actual or threatened death or serious bodily harm, and the defendant is found GEI, the defendant will be committed to a state mental institution for 75 days. The court will then hold a hearing within 75 days from the date of commitment to determine whether the defendant is entitled to be released from confinement, or the defendant meets the standards for civil commitment. At this hearing, the defendant will be required to show that they no longer suffer from mental disease or defect, and they are not dangerous. If the defendant fails to show this by clear and convincing evidence, they could be civilly committed.

The Need for an Experienced Litigator

The process may sound simple, but it can be a daunting excursion into the legal realm since there are many concerns regarding a defendant’s procedural and constitutional rights at every step of this complex litigation. A defendant must trust their attorney throughout this process in order to be successful in court, and secure a fair outcome. Mr. Garcia has successfully guided defendants to GEI pleas in four Arizona counties.

(Every case is different and your results may vary.)

In Arizona v. D. M., Mr. Garcia was able to secure a GEI plea for a man in Yuma County charged with 1 count of Kidnapping and 2 counts of Assault for following a woman from New Mexico to California, and then assaulting her and another man. At the time of the event, the defendant suffered from Manic Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and had grandiose and paranoid delusions. He has been restored and discharged back into society and continues to do well.

In Arizona v. J. Q., Mr. Garcia secured a GEI plea for a man in Maricopa County charged with attempted child molestation, attempted sexual conduct with a minor and sexual abuse. The defendant in this case suffered from depressive disorder, pedophilia, R/O alcohol abuse, and personality disorder with schizotypal traits. The defendant has been restored under the supervision and treatment of the state mental health institution and has been discharged back into the community, doing well.

In Arizona v. J. C., Mr. Garcia secured a GEI plea for a man in Pinal County charged with 1 count of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, 1 count of Unlawful Flight from a Law Enforcement Vehicle and 1 count of Criminal Damage during an altercation with police. The defendant believed the police were there to hurt him, occurring just weeks after his doctor took him off his psychiatric medications because of how well he thought the defendant was doing.