irresistible impulse test

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The irresistible impulse test is a legal doctrine that applies to the insanity defense in criminal cases.  Under this test, a defendant may be found not guilty by reason of insanity if they demonstrate that they suffered from a mental disease or defect that made it impossible for them to resist an impulse to commit a crime.

The defendant must provide compelling evidence that their mental illness caused them to lose control and that they could not resist the impulse to commit the crime. The prosecution may offer counter arguments or evidence to refute the defendant's claims, such as evidence that the defendant planned the crime in advance or that they had the ability to control their actions. Ultimately, the decision of whether to apply the irresistible impulse test and find the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity rests with the judge or jury hearing the case.

[Last updated in March of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]