What does “not criminally responsible” mean?

“Not criminally responsible” (NCR) means you committed a crime, but because of your mental disorder you are not responsible for what you did. You are NCR if your mental disorder stopped you from understanding what you did or the difference between right and wrong. Since you couldn't understand what you were doing, or you couldn't understand right from wrong, you shouldn't be punished for what you did.

Being NCR is about your mental condition at the time you committed the crime. It doesn't matter if your mental condition improves later. It doesn't matter what your mental condition is now.

The law assumes that you're able to understand your own actions, and that you're able to understand right from wrong. So, if you want the judge to say you're NCR, you have to prove it. If the Crown wants the judge to say you're NCR, the Crown has to prove it.

It's easier to prove you're NCR if you have a significant mental illness like schizophrenia, psychosis, or mania. But you can also prove you're NCR if you were experiencing another disorder that stopped you from understanding what you were doing or that it was wrong. A lawyer can give you more advice on whether this applies in your case.

If the judge agrees that you're NCR, you're not or acquitted. Your case usually goes to the (ORB) to decide what happens to you. The members of the ORB are experts in psychiatry and the law. If the ORB decides that you aren't dangerous, the ORB can release you to go home. If the ORB decides that you are dangerous, the ORB can force you to stay in a psychiatric hospital. You may be forced to stay at the hospital for a long time, and potentially for the rest of your life.

Get legal help

If either you or the Crown want to prove you're NCR, it's very important that you get a lawyer. If you don't have a lawyer, might be able to help you or the judge might appoint a lawyer to represent you. You can also apply for a legal aid certificate to hire any lawyer you choose.

Before you try to prove you're NCR, ask your lawyer to explain the possible outcomes. For example, if you suffer from both drug addiction and mental illness, and the judge decides you're NCR, then you might end up in a psychiatric hospital for a very long time.

In some situations, you won't be able to leave the hospital if you're NCR. For example, if you refuse to take your medication or you won't stop using illegal drugs, you might have to stay in the hospital.

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