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

How Colorado law defines insanity

In Colorado, a person not guilty of a crime if due to a mental disease or defect he or she is unable to distinguish right from wrong. The “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.

This differs from the question of competency to stand trial in Colorado. Competency concerns whether the defendant has adequate mental faculties to assist his defense attorney and this receive a fair trial.

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…

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If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime and wish to discuss a possible insanity defense with a Colorado criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to 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, simply fill out the confidential form on this page, or call us at our Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211
(303) 222-0330

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