NJ Laws Directions to Ken Vercammen and Associates Ken Vercammens Resume Ken Vercammen articles

Kenneth Vercammen & Associates
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2C:4-1 Insanity Defense

2C:4-1. Insanity defense

A person is not criminally responsible for conduct if at the time of such conduct he was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong. Insanity is an affirmative defense which must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence.


2C:4-2. Evidence of mental disease or defect admissible when relevant to element of the offense ? 2C:4-2. Evidence of mental disease or defect admissible when relevant to element of the offense.

Evidence that the defendant suffered from a mental disease or defect is admissible whenever it is relevant to prove that the defendant did not have a state of mind which is an element of the offense. In the absence of such evidence, it may be presumed that the defendant had no mental disease or defect which would negate a state of mind which is an element of the offense.

L.1978, c.95; amended 1979,c.178,s.11B; 1981,c.290,s.8; 1990,c.63.

2C:4-3. Requirement of notice? a. If a defendant intends to claim insanity pursuant to section 2C:4-1 or the absence of a requisite state of mind pursuant to section 2C:4-2, he shall serve notice of such intention upon the prosecuting attorney in accordance with the Rules of Court.

b. When a defendant is acquitted on the ground of insanity, the verdict and judgment shall so state.

L.1978, c. 95, s. 2C:4-3, eff. Sept. 1, 1979. Amended by L.1979, c. 178, s. 12, eff. Sept. 1, 1979.


2C:4-4. Mental incompetence excluding fitness to proceed? a. No person who lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense shall be tried, convicted or sentenced for the commission of an offense so long as such incapacity endures.

b. A person shall be considered mentally competent to stand trial on criminal charges if the proofs shall establish:

(1) That the defendant has the mental capacity to appreciate his presence in relation to time, place and things; and

(2) That his elementary mental processes are such that he comprehends:

(a) That he is in a court of justice charged with a criminal offense;

(b) That there is a judge on the bench;

(c) That there is a prosecutor present who will try to convict him of a criminal charge;

(d) That he has a lawyer who will undertake to defend him against that charge;

(e) That he will be expected to tell to the best of his mental ability the facts surrounding him at the time and place where the alleged violation was committed if he chooses to testify and understands the right not to testify;

(f) That there is or may be a jury present to pass upon evidence adduced as to guilt or innocence of such charge or, that if he should choose to enter into plea negotiations or to plead guilty, that he comprehend the consequences of a guilty plea and that he be able to knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive those rights which are waived upon such entry of a guilty plea; and

(g) That he has the ability to participate in an adequate presentation of his defense.

2C:4-5 Psychiatric or psychological examination of defendant with respect to fitness to proceed.

2C:4-5. Psychiatric or Psychological Examination of Defendant With Respect to Fitness to Proceed.

a. Whenever there is reason to doubt the defendant's fitness to proceed, the court may on motion by the prosecutor, the defendant or on its own motion, appoint at least one qualified psychiatrist or licensed psychologist to examine and report upon the mental condition of the defendant. The psychiatrist or licensed psychologist so appointed shall be either:

(1)From a list agreed to by the court, the prosecutor and the defendant; or

(2)Agreed to by the court, prosecutor and defendant.

Alternatively, the court may order examination of a defendant for fitness to proceed by the Department of Human Services. The department shall provide or arrange for examination of the defendant at a jail, prison or psychiatric hospital. However, to ensure that a defendant is not unnecessarily hospitalized for the purpose of the examination, a defendant shall not be admitted to a State psychiatric hospital for an examination regarding his fitness to proceed unless a qualified psychiatrist or licensed psychologist designated by the commissioner determines that hospitalization is clinically necessary to perform the examination. Whenever the qualified psychiatrist or licensed psychologist determines that hospitalization is clinically necessary to perform the examination, the court shall order the defendant to be committed to the custody of the Commissioner of Human Services for placement in a State psychiatric hospital designated for that purpose for a period not exceeding 30 days.

A qualified psychiatrist or licensed psychologist retained by the defendant or by the prosecutor shall, if requested, be permitted to examine a defendant who has been admitted to a State psychiatric hospital.

b.The report of the examination shall include at least the following: (1) a description of the nature of the examination; (2) a diagnosis of the mental condition of the defendant; (3) an opinion as to the defendant's capacity to understand the proceedings against him and to assist in his own defense. The person or persons conducting the examination may ask questions respecting the crime charged when such questions are necessary to enable formation of an opinion as to a relevant issue, however, the evidentiary character of any inculpatory statement shall be limited expressly to the question of competency and shall not be admissible on the issue of guilt.

c. If the examination cannot be conducted by reason of the unwillingness of the defendant to participate therein, the report shall so state and shall include, if possible, an opinion as to whether such unwillingness of the defendant was the result of mental incompetence. Upon the filing of such a report, the court may permit examination without cooperation, may appoint a different psychiatrist or licensed psychologist, or may commit the defendant for observation for a period not exceeding 30 days except on good cause shown, or exclude or limit testimony by the defense psychiatrist or licensed psychologist.

d. The report of the examination shall be sent by the psychiatrist or licensed psychologist to the court, the prosecutor and counsel for the defendant.

L.1978, c.95; amended 1979, c.178, s.13A; 1997, c.77, s.1; 1998, c.111, s.1.

2C:4-6. Determination of fitness to proceed; effect of finding of unfitness; proceedings if fitness is regained; post-commitment hearing?2C:4-6. Determination of Fitness to Proceed; Effect of Finding of Unfitness; Proceedings if Fitness is Regained; Post-Commitment Hearing.

a. When the issue of the defendant's fitness to proceed is raised, the issue shall be determined by the court. If neither the prosecutor nor counsel for the defendant contests the finding of the report filed pursuant to section 2C:4-5, the court may make the determination on the basis of such report. If the finding is contested or if there is no report, the court shall hold a hearing on the issue. If the report is received in evidence upon such hearing, either party shall have the right to summon and examine the psychiatrists or licensed psychologists who joined in the report and to offer evidence upon the issue.

b. If the court determines that the defendant lacks fitness to proceed, the proceeding against him shall be suspended, except as provided in subsection c. of this section. At this time, the court may commit him to the custody of the Commissioner of Human Services to be placed in an appropriate institution if it is found that the defendant is so dangerous to himself or others as to require institutionalization, or it shall proceed to determine whether placement in an out-patient setting or release is appropriate; provided, however, that no commitment to any institution shall be in excess of such period of time during which it can be determined whether it is substantially probable that the defendant could regain his competence within the foreseeable future.

If the court determines that the defendant is fit to proceed, but suffers from mental illness, as defined in section 2 of P.L.1987, c.116 (C.30:4-27.2), that does not require institutionalization, the court shall order the defendant to be provided appropriate treatment in the jail or prison in which the defendant is incarcerated. Where the defendant is incarcerated in a county correctional facility, the county shall provide or arrange for this treatment. The Department of Corrections shall reimburse the county for the reasonable costs of treatment, as determined by the Commissioner of Corrections, provided that the county has submitted to the commissioner such documentation and verification as the commissioner shall require.

c. If the defendant has not regained his fitness to proceed within three months, the court shall hold a hearing on the issue of whether the charges against him shall be dismissed with prejudice or held in abeyance.

The hearing shall be held only upon notice to the prosecutor and with an opportunity for the prosecutor to be heard. When the charges are not dismissed, each defendant's case shall be specifically reviewed by the court at six-month intervals until an order is made by the court that the defendant stand trial or that the charges be dismissed.

There shall be a presumption that charges against a defendant who is not competent to proceed shall be held in abeyance. The presumption can be overcome only if the court determines, using the factors set forth in this subsection, that continuing the criminal prosecution under the particular circumstances of the case would constitute a constitutionally significant injury to the defendant attributable to undue delay in being brought to trial.

In determining whether the charges shall be held in abeyance or dismissed, the court shall weigh the following factors: the defendant's prospects for regaining competency; the period of time during which the defendant has remained incompetent; the nature and extent of the defendant's institutionalization; the nature and gravity of the crimes charged; the effects of delay on the prosecution; the effects of delay on the defendant, including any likelihood of prejudice to the defendant in the trial arising out of the delay; and the public interest in prosecuting the charges.

d. When the court, on its own motion or upon application of the commissioner, his designee or either party, determines after a hearing, if a hearing is requested, that the defendant has regained fitness to proceed, the proceedings shall be resumed.

e.(Deleted by amendment, P.L.1996, c.133).

f. The fact that the defendant is unfit to proceed does not preclude determination of any legal objection to the prosecution which is susceptible of fair determination prior to trial and without the personal participation of the defendant.

L.1978, c.95; amended 1979, c.178, s.13B; 1996, c.133, s.1; 1997, c.77, s.2; 1999, c.16, s.1.

2C:4-7. Disposition? If a defendant is acquitted by reason of insanity the court shall dispose of the case as provided for in section 2C:4-8 of this chapter.?

2C:4-8. Commitment of a person by reason of insanity?2C:4-8. Commitment of a Person by Reason of Insanity. a. After acquittal by reason of insanity, the court shall order that the defendant undergo a psychiatric examination by a psychiatrist of the prosecutor's choice. If the examination cannot take place because of the unwillingness of the defendant to participate, the court shall proceed as in section 2C:4-5c. The defendant, pursuant to this section, may also be examined by a psychiatrist of his own choice.

b. The court shall dispose of the defendant in the following manner:

(1) If the court finds that the defendant may be released without danger to the community or himself without supervision, the court shall so release the defendant; or

(2) If the court finds that the defendant may be released without danger to the community or to himself under supervision or under conditions, the court shall so order; or

(3) If the court finds that the defendant cannot be released with or without supervision or conditions without posing a danger to the community or to himself, it shall commit the defendant to a mental health facility approved for this purpose by the Commissioner of Human Services to be treated as a person civilly committed. In all proceedings conducted pursuant to this section and pursuant to section N.J.S.2C:4-6 concerning a defendant who lacks the fitness to proceed, including any periodic review proceeding, the prosecuting attorney shall have the right to appear and be heard. The defendant's continued commitment, under the law governing civil commitment, shall be established by a preponderance of the evidence, during the maximum period of imprisonment that could have been imposed, as an ordinary term of imprisonment, for any charge on which the defendant has been acquitted by reason of insanity. Expiration of that maximum period of imprisonment shall be calculated by crediting the defendant with any time spent in confinement for the charge or charges on which the defendant has been acquitted by reason of insanity.

c. No person committed under this section shall be confined within any penal or correctional institution or any part thereof.

L.1978, c.95; amended 1979, c.178, s.15; 1981, c.290, s.9; 1996, c.133, s.2.

2C:4-9. Release of persons committed by reason of insanity?2C:4-9. Release of Persons Committed by Reason of Insanity.

a. If a person has been committed pursuant to section 2C:4-8 or section 2C:4-6 and if the commissioner, or his designee, or the superintendent of the institution to which the person has been committed, is of the view that a person committed to his custody, pursuant to section 2C:4-8 or section 2C:4-6, may be discharged or released on condition without danger to himself or to others, or that he may be transferred to a less restrictive setting for treatment, the commissioner or superintendent shall make application for the discharge or release of such person in a report to the court by which such person was committed and shall transmit a copy of such application and report to the prosecutor, the court, and defense counsel. The court may, in its discretion, appoint at least two qualified psychiatrists, neither of whom may be on the staff of the hospital to which the defendant had been committed, to examine such person and to report within 30 days, or such longer period as the court determines to be necessary for the purpose, their opinion as to his mental condition.

b. The court shall hold a hearing to determine whether the committed person may be safely discharged, released on condition without danger to himself or others, or treated as in civil commitment. The hearing shall be held upon notice to the prosecutor and with the prosecutor's opportunity to be heard. Any such hearing shall be deemed a civil proceeding. According to the determination of the court upon the hearing, the court shall proceed as in section 2C:4-8b. (1), (2) or (3).

c. A committed person may make application for his discharge or release to the court by which he was committed, and the procedure to be followed upon such application shall be the same as that prescribed above in the case of an application by the commissioner.

d. Each defendant's case shall be specifically reviewed as provided by the law governing civil commitment.


Kenneth Vercammen was the Middlesex County Bar Municipal Court Attorney of the Year
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Kenneth Vercammen was the NJ State Bar Municipal Court Attorney of the Year and past president of the Middlesex County Municipal Prosecutors Association.

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Ken Vercammen articles

Ken Vercammens Resume Directions to Ken Vercammen and Associates



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