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New York Appellate Court Discusses Use of the Insanity Defense


People v D

This is an appeal from Suffolk County Supreme Court, head in August of 2017. The defendant’s motion pursuant to CPL 220.60(3) to withdraw his plea based on not guilty by reason of mental defect was denied.

In 2016, the defendant entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect from two counts of third-degree arson (CPL 220.15).

The court later determined that the defendant suffered from a dangerous mental defect (CPL 330.20 [1][c] and committed him to the mental health commissioner.

In 2017, the defendant moved to withdraw his plea, pursuant to 220.60(3). The court denied his motion. The defendant appeals this denial.

There is no appeal available from a criminal law proceeding unless it is through criminal procedural law (CPL 1.10 (1)(a), People v Stephens 91 NY2d 270). A criminal proceeding is any proceeding that is not part of a criminal action, or occurs in a criminal court and is related to a criminal action.

The Insanity Defense Reform Act helped enact CPL 220.15 and permits a defendant with permission of the court to enter a plea of not responsible by reason of mental defect. CPL 220.60 was also amended to allow the defendants to withdraw their pleas.

Defendants who have plead guilty and unsuccessfully move to withdraw their plea (CPL 220.60) may later obtain an appellate review of the denial of their motion (People v Snype, 171 AD3d 1220), however not a conviction.

The court of appeals has indicated if not responsible by reason of mental defect terminates a proceeding and initiates a new proceeding that is civil in nature. A motion pursuant to CPL 220.60 seeking a withdraw is part of the indictment of the criminal action and comes within the statutory definition of a criminal proceeding.

The court said there is no way to appeal via CPL 330.20 which permits an appeal in accordance with the section. The orders specified under CPL 330.20 does not include an order denying a motion pursuant to CPL 220.60 to withdraw a plea.

While CPL 220.60 was amended to permit motions to withdraw a plea of not responsible due to mental defect, there is no way to appeal the denial of such motions.

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