- Published: June 5, 2015
The irresistible impulse defense is a particularly interesting aspect of the legal system that has pervasive effects on neurolaw and deserves a closer look. Even though he or she is very much aware of right from wrong, it is still possible to be found not guilty because this defense permits a violator to claim temporary insanity. It is, however, necessary to prove that the violator was ill at the time of the act.
“For example, assume that a child has been molested. If the child's mother shoots and kills the suspected molester, the mother could argue that she was so enraged by the violation of her child that she was unable to control her actions. The mother need not have been diagnosed as mentally ill. Rather, she would need to show that she was mentally ill at the time of the shooting, and that the illness impaired her self-control.”
Although few states currently use this defense since the exculpation of John Hinckley after the Reagan assassination attempt, the idea of ever allowing such a defense is preposterous because it essentially allows anger or moments of weakness to suffice as an excuse. This is contradictory because the legal system assumes that humans are rational, logical beings. If we allow temporary insanity, or simply emotions getting the best of us, then where do we draw the line between one criminal offense and another? What about petty theft? A criminal can simply argue that, when stealing food, his hunger got the best of him which led to temporary insanity, resulting in actions he cannot control. Allowing the irresistible impulse defense would open the floodgates of many excuses, rather than legitimate defenses.
Irresistible Impulse. The Free Dictionary. Farlex.