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Insanity may be a criminal defense when accused attempts suicide

Domestic situations in New Hampshire and elsewhere are sometimes so volatile that they can result in danger to the participants and to the police who are investigating a disturbance. This type of situation occurred recently in Nashua when police were called to a residence to assist the caller in removing items from that address. The resident of the premises, however, would not let police into the home. The problem escalated into a criminal defense matter when the woman displayed a gun and communicated her desire to kill herself.

Police rushed the woman as she picked up the gun and appeared to point it toward herself. In a struggle with the suspect, one of the officers applied his taser to get control of the suspect. She nonetheless got a shot off, which went into the floor. Luckily, no one was injured.

Police arrested her for felony reckless conduct and misdemeanor resisting arrest. They also allegedly found cocaine on the suspect and charged her with felony drug possession. The police appropriately had the accused transported to a local hospital first for a mental health evaluation.

She was then incarcerated in lieu of $15,000 bail. With respect to the drug charge, a search of the person's body for contraband would appear to be appropriate under the circumstances due to the probable cause likely created by the woman's alleged illegal and improper use of a firearm. The drug charge is therefore likely to be handled in a plea bargain and resolved in that manner.

Under these facts, the possibility of an insanity defense pursuant to New Hampshire law is always a potential defense. That depends on the opinions of the medical experts that have treated her and on any experts retained to conduct separate examinations. If the elements of an insanity defense do not exist, the highly distraught emotional nature of the accused under these facts is nonetheless important. Criminal defense counsel will argue that this is a key factor that mitigates the defendant's ability to form criminal intent.

Source: Nashua, NH Patch, "Nashua Woman Fires Gun In Struggle With Officers: Police", Jason Claffey, April 10, 2017

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