Georgia Criminal Defense Blog

What is the difference between Insanity and Delusional Compulsion in Georgia?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Feb 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

The defense of insanity in Georgia is defined by the Georgia Code as: “A person shall not be found guilty of a crime if, at the time of the act, omission, or negligence constituting the crime, the person did not have mental capacity to distinguish between right and wrong in relation to such act, omission, or negligence.” O.C.G.A. §16-3-2.

The defense of delusional compulsion in Georgia is defined by the Georgia Code as: “A person shall not be found guilty of a crime when, at the time of the act, omission, or negligence constituting the crime, the person, because of mental disease, injury, or congenital deficiency, acted as he did because of a delusional compulsion as to such act which overmastered his will to resist committing the crime.” O.C.G.A. §16-3-3. 

The biggest difference between the defense of insanity and the defense of delusional compulsion is the right/wrong factor that goes along with insanity. Delusional compulsion is when a person who has a mental disease, injury, deficiency, disorder, or something of the like, and it compels them to believe something that, if it were true or reality, would justify their actions. Insanity is when a person does not have the ability to distinguish right from wrong or vice versa. 

Georgia law automatically presumes that every person is of sound mind and discretion. This means that the burden of proof is on the accused person to show that they are not of sound mind and discretion. Usually with a defense of mental health (such as delusional compulsion or insanity) is raised, the Court will require the accused person to submit to psychological evaluations. 

Let's look to some Georgia case law:

In regard to the defense of insanity, Georgia courts have found that a defendant cannot use the insanity defense if he did not show “insanity raised by the evidence.” Smith v. State, 180 Ga. App. (1986). Meaning that if the defendant doesn't demonstrate through evidence that he doesn't know the difference between right and wrong, then typically the Georgia court will not submit the issue of insanity to the jury. Also, the accused person must show not that he posed a “risk of harm to himself or others,” but that he was incapable of determining “right from wrong,” which must be shown through a “preponderance of the evidence.” Gilbert v. State, 235 Ga. 501 (1975).

Regarding the defense of delusional compulsion, “the general rule” is that if an accused person has sufficient reason man to “distinguish between right and wrong” regarding a criminal act, then he is criminally responsible; there is an exception to this rule - “in consequence of some delusion brought about by mental disease” his will was overpowered, he will not be held criminally responsible. Johnson v. State, 226 Ga. 511 (1970). Also, it must appear that the defendant was actually “laboring under a delusion operating as a causative factor, but that the delusion was such that it, if true, would justify the act.” Biddy v. State, 138 Ga. App. 4, (1976).

The difference between delusional compulsion and insanity may seem obvious by looking at the above statutes and case law, the two defenses are actually very subtly different. There are different legal tests used by Georgia courts to determine both delusional compulsion and insanity that are best explained by an experienced Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer. The legal system is not designed for you to represent yourself. It's important to have help to distinguish between the two. There are a large number of Georgia Criminal Defenses that may apply to your case. However, the difficulty lies in determining exactly which ones apply to your specific case. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, contact a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney today.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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