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Criminal Responsibility

  1. Patricia A. Zapf

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0238

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Zapf, P. A. 2010. Criminal Responsibility. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. John Jay College of Criminal Justice—The City University of New York

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


The issue of criminal responsibility, or insanity, has to do with an individual's mental state at the time of the offense. The basic philosophy—which stems back to the earliest recordings of Hebrew law and is still in effect throughout the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, England, Wales, and other countries—is that to convict a person charged with a crime, he or she must be considered responsible for his or her criminal behavior. That is, the criminal behavior must have been a product of free will. If a defendant's behavior was not a product of free will, then he or she should not be held responsible for the crime.


  • criminal responsibility;
  • insanity;
  • insanity defense;
  • M'Naghten;
  • American Law Institute