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Dissociative Behaviors in the Criminal Justice System

Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly referred to as multiple personality disorder, is a condition wherein a person’s identity is fragmented into two or more distinct personality states,” according to Psychology Today.

It is not unheard of for individuals with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) to present themselves in the criminal justice system as opposed to the mental health system after committing a violent act, such as aggravated sexual assault, torcher, or murder.

“Asserting that their alter personality committed the bad act, defendants have pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI),” reported the US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health.

DID Challenges the Legal System

There is no question that extremely traumatic experiences, especially during childhood, can lead to serious mental health issues in adolescents and adults, sometimes triggering criminal behavior, such as substance abuse, child and spousal abuse, torturing of animals, sexual assault, and murder.

Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), now called Dissociative Identity Disorder, has created vexing problems for the criminal justice system as it attempts to assign criminal responsibility to individuals who have “no memory” of committing a crime.

DID is characterized by two or more distinct identities or personalities. Some individuals who struggle with DID and who also commit criminal acts are excellent candidates for the insanity defense – not guilty by reason of insanity.

Symptoms of DID:

  • The individual has at least two distinct personalities.
  • When the identity is disrupted, the person changes behavior, consciousness, perception and memory.
  • The person has frequent gaps in memory. They cannot remember certain places, people and events, which are not consistent with normal forgetting.

Developmental theorists believe that severe physical, sexual, and psychological trauma during childhood predisposes people to DID. The theory is that children split off their memory and awareness in order to survive the trauma. In effect, the individual develops two or more personalities, each with different memories and functions.

Are you facing criminal charges and concerned that a mental illness may be the catalyst behind your behaviors? If so, contact our firm to explore your defense options.

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