Can A Pregnant Woman Claim Temporary Insanity?

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I know this is a silly question. A friend of mine told me that it was legal for a pregnant woman to commit murder because when you’re pregnant your hormones are really messed up and your brain swells. Is this true? I was also told that if a mother feels her child is in danger she can protect her child by any means possible even if that means killing the attacker.

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

Technically, it’s never “legal” to commit homicide. If you do commit a homicide, you can legitimately claim certain affirmative defenses that allow you to avoid or reduce the charge. Self defense is an obvious affirmative defense and allows you to be acquitted, while insanity is one that allows the state to hold you for psychiatric care rather than for punitive purposes. It sounds like your friend is making an argument for a pregnant woman to be able to claim temporary insanity due to her pregnancy. Although a defense attorney may attempt such an affirmative defense in most states, it is unlikely to succeed because temporary insanity has more precise requirements than merely having surges of hormones. Insanity is actually fairly difficult to establish, and often requires establishing that the person could not have any control over his actions and/or could not understand the consequences of his actions. A pregnant woman in this scenario would probably have to establish more than mere hormone surges. If these surges led to psychosis, for example, she may be able to prevail on an affirmative defense of temporary insanity.

The second scenario you present is more likely to be a successful affirmative defense. Defense of Others is an affirmative defense that is recognized by most jurisdictions. This defense allows a person to defend another person, possibly with lethal force. The defense has several elements, including the use of proportional force, objective standards, and subjective standards. The specific requirements of these elements vary from state to state. Generally, however, anyone can reasonably defend the life of anyone else, and the use of lethal force may be excusable if certain conditions are met, including that the other person was actually in lethal danger. In this scenario, the mother would have to reasonably believe her child was in danger, and her child would also have to actually be in danger (it’s not enough that she thinks that he is), and the actions she takes would have to be proportional or reasonable
under the circumstances.



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Author: House Attorney