Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity in Colorado
(16-8-101.5 C.R.S.)

three images of young man with schizophrenia

How Colorado law defines insanity

In Colorado, you are not guilty of a crime if due to a mental disease or defect you are unable to distinguish right from wrong.

The so-called “insanity defense” is set forth in Section 16-8-101.5 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. It is usually raised by the defendant or the defendant's lawyer at the arraignment – the hearing at which the defendant is officially charged with a crime.

Once a defendant claims to be “not guilty by reason of insanity,” the burden of proof shifts to the prosecution to prove that the defendant is, in fact, sane.

A mental disease or defect

Since 1995, the test for insanity in Colorado has been whether the defendant:

  • Was so diseased or defective in mind at the time of the commission of the act as to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong with respect to that act; or
  • Suffered from a condition of mind caused by a mental disease or defect that prevented that person from forming a culpable mental state that is an essential element of a crime charged.

The purpose of 16-8-101.5 C.R.S. is to ensure that criminal liability is not imposed on someone lacking the mental capacity to commit the crime.
However, incapacity resulting from a defendant's voluntary use of drugs or alcohol is not considered insanity under any circumstances.

16-8-101.5 C.R.S. also makes it explicit that a mental disease or defect is not the same as:

  • Moral obliquity, 
  • Mental depravity, or 
  • Passion growing out of anger, revenge, hatred, or other motives and kindred evil conditions.

“Mental disease or defect” includes only those severely abnormal mental conditions that grossly and demonstrably impair a person's perception or understanding of reality. It does not include an abnormality manifested only by repeated criminal or otherwise antisocial conduct.

Examples of possible insanity

Examples of conditions that might lead to a successful insanity defense include (but are not limited to):

  • Severe neurological disorders,
  • Involuntary intoxication (being drugged),
  • Schizophrenia,
  • Bipolar disorder, 
  • Poisoning with fumes or toxic substances, or
  • Any other medical condition that produces serious delusions or a break with reality.

Call us for help…

call center receptionist

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime and wish to discuss a possible insanity defense with a caring Colorado criminal defense lawyer, we invite you contact us for a free consultation.

We are conversant with both the medical and legal issues involving in raising the affirmative defense of insanity on cases as varied as assault, burglary, sexual assault and murder.

Communities our criminal attorneys serve include Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Thornton, Arvada, Westminster, Centennial and Boulder.

To speak about your case with one of our Colorado defense attorneys, simple fill out the confidential form on this page, or call us at our Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
720-955-6112

Free attorney consultations...

Our attorneys want to hear your side of the story. Contact us 24/7 to schedule a FREE consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. We may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed altogether. And if necessary, we will champion your case all the way to trial.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Regain peace of mind...

Our defense attorneys understand that being accused of a crime is one of the most difficult times of your life. Rely on us to zealously and discreetly protect your rights and to fight for the most favorable resolution possible.

To contact us, please select your state:

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370