Sleepwalking Crime? The Automatism Defense Strategy Explained

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If you were sleepwalking and committed a crime, then your criminal defense lawyer will use the automatism defense to defend your actions in court. This strategy is effective in cases where your body performs an illegal action, but you were not consciously aware of it at the time.

Below is information on this rare criminal defense strategy to help you better understand its use and limitations.

Basics of the Automatism Defense

There are a few different medical conditions that make the automatism defense a reasonable strategy for your lawyer to use to defend your case in court. Some of the most common are:

In addition, suffering a convulsion or muscle spasm also qualifies as an automatism event.

Examples of the Automatism Defense

The easiest way to understand the automatism defense is through the use of examples. One situation where the automatism defense would be used is if you are having a night terror or are sleepwalking and commit a crime. People in this state of unconsciousness have killed other people, thinking they were being threatened or were in danger. The automatism defense has been proven effective in this type of case.

Another example where the automatism defense is appropriate is when someone is driving down the road and suffers a muscle spasm in their leg. When the spasm hits, they slam on the brakes or the gas without having meant to do so and cause an accident. In this scenario, the person didn't take any conscious action to cause the accident, so their attorney can effectively defend them using this type of defense strategy.

Exclusions to the Automatism Defense

There are some exclusions for the automatism defense, such as:

Additionally, any previously diagnosed medical conditions that you have are likely excluded from this type of defense. If you suffer from seizures or are diabetic, then it is expected you will not drive while impaired. You are expected to manage your illness or not drive a vehicle if you could be a danger to others. 

Finally, if you have been charged with a crime, then it is vital that you find a local law firm to defend your case in court. If you believe your case can successfully be defended by using the automatism legal defense strategy, then you should speak with an attorney, like those at Kane Funk Poch & Van Massenhove PC. They are always the best person to give you legal advice.