Suspect Allowed To Enter Defense Of Diminished Capacity

Defenses based on mental illness can be confusing – however when raised in the appropriate cases they can be a complete defense – to certain crimes. An experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer can advise you concerning all relevant defenses if you have been charged with Michigan criminal activity. Currently Michigan only recognizes the insanity defense. The “insanity defense” may be used as a complete defense to criminal prosecution when someone has been found legally insane. Legal insanity is defined by the Michigan mental health code as when an individual as a result of mental illness or mental retardation “lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his or her conduct, or to conform his or her conduct to the requirements of the law.”

“Diminished capacity” has been recently eliminated as a defense to crimes by the Michigan Supreme Court. “Diminished capacity” generally applies to individuals who suffer from a “mental abnormality” that is less severe than “insanity.” Despite the fact that “diminished capacity” may no longer serve as a defense to a crime, evidence of your mental condition at the time of an alleged crime may still be relevant to the outcome of your case.

If you have been charged with any Michigan crime, it’s important to contact an aggressive Michigan criminal defense attorney right away to discuss your vigorous defense.

As recent case evaluated whether a former police officer with a history of mental illness could raise “diminished capacity” as a defense. In the initial jury trial, Lancaster v. Metrish, Lancaster was convicted of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. However, the judgment was overturned due to a jury selection violation.

During his retrial in 2005, Lancaster had planned to raise diminished capacity. This rationale behind the diminished-capacity defense is that mental illnesses and disabilities can cause a person, though legally same to lack the specific intent necessary to commit certain crimes. Further, despite it’s abolishment in Michigan, scientific advancements in the area of mental health have worked to provide greater support for the diminished capacity defense, not lesser. However, the court didn’t allow him to raise this defense because in the time between the first and second trials, the state had gotten rid of this defense. Lancaster then filed a Michigan criminal appeal. The Michigan Court of Appeals then determined that Lancaster’s due process rights were violated when the court failed to let him raise this defense.


The court noted that Lancaster would be denied his “due process of law in its primary senses of an opportunity to be heard and to defend (his) substantive right.”

Understanding the law and keeping on top of changes and new cases is critical in preparing a vigorous criminal defense and helping you win an appeal. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can evaluate all possible defenses and help secure the best outcome possible.

If you have been charged with criminal activity in Michigan, contact a top Michigan criminal defense lawyer at Grabel & Associates for an immediate free consultation.