Irresistible-Impulse Test – holds that a person is not criminally responsible for an act if mental disease prevented them from controlling potentially criminal conduct

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irresistible-impulse test:

1. Criminal law. A test for insanity, holding that a person is not criminally responsible for an act if mental disease prevented that person from controlling potentially criminal conduct.  *  The few jurisdictions that have adopted this test have combined it with the McNaghten rules. — aka control test; volitional test. [1]

irresistible impulse – A form of insanity, frequently termed “impulsive insanity,” by which a person is irresistibly impelled to the commission of an act, for example, the killing of a person. 29 Am J Rev ed Ins Per § 3.

A product of mental insanity, as distinguished from moral insanity. 21 Am J2d Crim L § 36.

An impulse to commit an act, otherwise criminal, which one is powerless to control in consequence of a disease of the mind or brain, although he may be able to comprehend the nature and consequences of his act and know that it is wrong. 21 Am J2d Crim L § 36.

An impulse produced by and growing out of some mental disease affecting the volitive as distinguished from the perceptive powers, so that the person afflicted, while able to understand the nature of the consequences and to perceive that the act is wrong, is unable because of such mental disease to resist the insane impulse to do it. Durham v United States, 94 App DC 228, 214 F2d 862, 45 ALR2d 1430.

Insanity constituting a ground for divorce, where generated by a diseased mind. Willis v Willis (Mo App) 274 SW2d 621.

It is essential carefully to distinguish between instances of irresistible impulse and those situations where persons in the possession of their reasoning faculties are impelled by passion to the commission of acts which in their calmer moments would prove repulsive. Mutual Life Ins. Co. v Terry (US) 15 Wall 580, 21 L Ed 236. [2]

1. An impulse to commit an act that one is powerless to control.  “Irresistible impulse” is the test used in some jurisdictions to determine insanity for purposes of a criminal defense.  The test asks “Although the defendant is able to understand the nature and consequences of her act, and to understand that it is wrong, is she unable because of mental disease to resist the impulse to do it? [3]

     Excerpt from Rollin M. Perkins & Ronald N. Boyce, Criminal Law 975 (3d ed. 1982):

     “The first reaction of the legal profession to the irresistible impulse defense, when it was introduced to the law many years ago, was inclined to be favorable. Then a change set in and for many years the prevailing view was strongly against its recognition. Present indications are that the tide is changing again. There seems to be a growing belief to the effect that ignoring the possibility of such a defense fails to give full recognition to the fundamental concept of mens rea. [5]



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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.


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