Pathological gambling and criminal responsibility
There exists significant interdisciplinary support for eliminating the volitional component of the insanity defense. Somewhat in contrast to this trend is the presentation of pathological gambling as a potentially exculpatory condition in criminal trials. The authors discuss three federal appellate court decisions on this attempted inappropriate usage of psychiatric diagnostic nomenclature. All have upheld convictions, and thereby rejected contentions that such an impulse disorder can form the basis for a valid plea of lack of criminal responsibility. It is suggested that the public interest will be served by statutorily making disturbances of behavioral control insufficient to raise a defense of insanity.
The volitional rule, personality disorders and the insanity defense
Reviews recent position statements on the insanity defense adopted by the American Psychiatric Association and the American Bar Association recommending the abandonment of the volitional aspect of the legal standard. Supporting proposed reforms, the present authors argue that personality disorders should be classified as 'nonexculpatory mental conditions.' Defendants who suffer from such disorders are socially deviant, not mentally ill. There is a tremendous difference between behavior that is not fully normal and behavior that warrants the legal label of insanity. The abundance of contrasting opinions on antisocial personality is presented as an example of the problems involved in defining aberrant behavior in precisely applicable legal terms and contexts. With the introduction of DSM-III, disorders of impulse control, particularly pathological gambling, have been advanced in support of a plea of 'not guilty by reason of insanity.' A framework is presented to distinguish acts that are truly irresistible from those that are simply not resisted. It is concluded that legislation should be enacted specifically to eliminate conditions classified on the basis of disturbances of volition and/or behavior from the umbrella of exculpatory mental disorders.