A homeless woman who sought medical treatment at MetroWest Medical Center on October 2nd, was arrested after reportedly assaulting a hospital security guard. According to an article in the MetroWest Daily News, the woman was brought to the hospital in a highly intoxicated state with an injured arm (the cause of the injury is unknown). Doctors determined that the arm was broken and placed it in a cast. After receiving treatment for the injury, the woman attempted to leave the hospital. Doctors apparently did not want her to go, perhaps believing that she needed further medical care. As a result, hospital employees attempted to stop the woman from leaving the facility. In response to the hospital’s attempts to detain her, the woman reportedly hit a medical center security guard in the face with her cast-covered arm. She was subsequently arrested for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Unfortunately, the woman has engaged in similar behavior in the past – in August of this year, she also attempted to leave the medical center against medical advice. Hospital security made similar attempts to stop her on that occasion, and she reportedly punched a security guard in the face.
While these alleged incidents are concerning, the woman may have some defenses at her disposal. One possibility is that she has some mental health issues – her highly intoxicated state and overall conduct suggest that this might be the case. While a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity is notoriously hard to win, the law does provide for a defense of diminished capacity, which is a mental health defense short of a claim of insanity. Specifically, a mental impairment that does not rise to the level of legal insanity may still be relevant to the issue of whether a defendant had any criminal intent. Such intent is required for a conviction in every case. It is apparent that the woman was both quite intoxicated, and, for whatever reason, desperate to leave the hospital. The extremity of her desire to leave, coupled with her somewhat irrational behavior, might lead a jury to conclude that the woman’s mental health played a signficant role in her conduct. Further, in light of the fact that the woman was well within her rights to refuse additional medical care, a jury might be sympathetic to her and disinclined to convict.
In the alternative, the woman’s defense attorney may explore some other options for the defense. For example, if she is in fact suffering from some sort of untreated mental impairment, her attorney could attempt to help her find mental health care. If the court believes that the root cause of the woman’s behavior is her mental health, the court may be satisfied that she is getting treatment and thereby willing to consider a resolution of the case that does not result in a conviction, such as a continuance without a finding or pre-trial probation.
If you or a loved one is in a situation similar to the woman in this case, you will need an attorney who is sensitive to mental health issues, and who knows how to present such issues to the court in an effective way. Attorney Daniel Cappetta is such an attorney. He can help guide you through the criminal justice system, and work with you to get the best results possible for your case.