I have a mental health issue and I’ve been charged with a crime. What are my options?

4. Learn about “not criminally responsible”

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

Being NCR is about your mental health at the time you committed the crime. It doesn't matter if your mental health improves later. It doesn't matter what your mental health 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 may be able to prove NCR with other disorders as well.

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.

If you don't agree with the ORB's decision, you can appeal to the Court of Appeal.

It's a serious decision to try to prove NCR. Even if you're successful, you can be forced to stay in the hospital against your will for a very long time and maybe for the rest of your life. If you're thinking about starting an NCR application, or if the Crown is starting an NCR application, it's very important to talk to a lawyer [Link to NCR question].

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