Instruction on Irresistible Impulse Not Required as the Standard for Sanity of a Juvenile Offender
June 29th, 2018

In People v. Marsh (2018) 20 Cal.App.5th 694 the defense argued that due process and the prohibition against disproportionate punishment required the trial court to instruct on irresistible impulse as the standard for sanity of a juvenile. This claim was based on the same body of research on the development of brain function in adolescents that led to the decisions in Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. 460 and Roper v. Simmons (2005) 543 U.S. 551.


However, the reviewing court held that due process does not impose any particular definition of sanity on the states or require the use of irresistible impulse as a measure of sanity. (California abrogated the irresistible impulse test in 1982.)  Miller and Roper  (2005) recognized that juveniles are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing. Their diminished culpability and greater potential for reformation make them not as deserving of the most severe punishments, but that does not mean they are less deserving of any punishment. The constitutional protection against disproportionate punishment does not prohibit punishment for conduct in response to an irresistible impulse.


Thus. the trial court thus properly instructed the jury on the standard for finding defendant not guilty by reason of insanity.

(People v. Marsh (2018) 20 Cal.App.5th 694, 700.)

Tags: , ,