Crimes Committed while sleepwalking

Published: 10th June 2009
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If you commit a crime while asleep should you be prosecuted just like anyone else would, or does the fact that you were asleep mean you have no responsibilities for your actions? There are numerous occasions when someone has committed a crime while claiming to have been sleepwalking.

One of the earliest cases of such an incident was in 1846, when a man in Boston slit a prostitute's throat and set fire to a brothel. His criminal solicitor claimed that the man was a chronic sleepwalker and had committed the crime while sleeping. The man was eventually acquitted. There was another early case where a man who had committed crimes while thought to have been sleepwalking, was sentenced to sleep in a cage. As he acted like any other law abiding person while he was not asleep, this solved the problem caused by his sleeping condition.

It could be argued that this case is evidence that one may act like a different person while sleep walking. Others would argue, though, that the crime you commit must be within your psyche to carry out the act. In other words, it must be in your mind somewhere that you would like to carry out such a crime.

Criminal Law stipulates that to commit a crime you must be acting deliberately or carelessly. Therefore if you are asleep, are you in control of our actions? Most would argue that you are not. Sleepwalking is when someone gets up, walks around, and carries out other acts while asleep. In many ways it is someone acting out activities like they are awake, but while they are asleep. Therefore it is possible for someone who is asleep to commit a crime while sleepwalking. People have been known to drive a car while sleepwalking, so it is certainly possible to commit a crime in this state of unconsciousness.

Having committed a criminal act many have argued that they were sleepwalking. When this is the case it is the criminal solicitors job to prove two things. The first is that the defendant has a history of sleep disorders such as sleepwalking. If this cannot be proved the case is unlikely to be dismissed. The criminal solicitor must also prove that the defendant does not have tendencies to commit such a crime or when he or she is awake. So if someone has committed a violent act, the criminal solicitor must prove that he or she does not have a violent history. If it can be proved that the defendant does not have a criminal history, and does have a history of sleepwalking, then it is possible that he or she will be acquitted. There have been a number of cases where someone has been acquitted of a crime committed while they were thought to have been sleepwalking. Of course someone who has committed a crime cannot just claim they were sleepwalking and get away with it. There must be evidence to support this claim.

Andrew Marshall ©

Criminal Solicitor London

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