PTSD as a criminal defense: a review of case law.J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2012; 40(4):509-21.JA
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been offered as a basis for criminal defenses, including insanity, unconsciousness, self-defense, diminished capacity, and sentencing mitigation. Examination of case law (e.g., appellate decisions) involving PTSD reveals that when offered as a criminal defense, PTSD has received mixed treatment in the judicial system. Courts have often recognized testimony about PTSD as scientifically reliable. In addition, PTSD has been recognized by appellate courts in U.S. jurisdictions as a valid basis for insanity, unconsciousness, and self-defense. However, the courts have not always found the presentation of PTSD testimony to be relevant, admissible, or compelling in such cases, particularly when expert testimony failed to show how PTSD met the standard for the given defense. In cases that did not meet the standard for one of the complete defenses, PTSD has been presented as a partial defense or mitigating circumstance, again with mixed success.