Can mental health problems be a mitigating factor in the prosecution of non-violent crime, misdemeanors, or traffic violations? Would you ever cite your Borderline Personality as a handicap that disrupted your better judgment?
Let me be clear: I’m talking about non-violent crime. If you seriously hurt or kill someone in a BPD rage, you get what you deserve: prison time or permanent commitment to a mental health facility.
My question revolves around white collar, financial, tax, misdemeanors, traffic violations, etc. that don’t necessarily cause harm to anyone else, but do warrant an investigation because you are in violation of the law.
For example, let’s say you owe $50,000 in back taxes over a 3 year period. During that time, your BPD was out of control and you had more pressing issues than paying your tax bill accurately. You might have been involuntarily committed, suicidal, or otherwise acting out. Alternatively, the loss of an important relationship or death in the family sent you into a tailspin.
Now, the IRS has sent you a letter requesting an explanation for the discrepancies they’ve observed on your returns. You’re asked to visit a local office. You’ve got a few bucks available so you hire a tax attorney to help represent you. (Never make deals with the government without legal advice unless you absolutely know what you’re doing).
Naturally, the government wants the past-due money. The question is how much, and should you be prosecuted for your transgressions?
In most cases, if you’re a first time offender, you’ll get a break on the bill but might have a portion of your salary garnished. Your credit score will go into the tank. You might have to sell your home and downsize to an apartment to pay all the bills. If you don’t mess up again, you’ll wright the ship in 10 years and your financial situation will be back to normal.
In other cases, however, the IRS might not be so nice. They want their money plus punitive damages, jail time, and/or might take you to civil court (Tax crimes are subject to both Civil and Criminal legal action). Your case goes before the area district attorney and charges are pressed. What now?
First things first, realize that most cases never go to trial because deals can be brokered long before you face a judge, unless you adamantly plead your innocence. A good lawyer can cut a deal for you. Sure, it might cost you $500 an hour to hire adequate legal help, but that’s better than going to prison. The government doesn’t prefer going to trial because it is an expensive process for both sides. That said, the government knows your financial resources are limited and will use that knowledge to pressure you into making some sort of plea bargain. You can only fight as long as you have money to pay for an attorney.
Naturally your attorney will want to know some background information about your case, including any reasonable explanation for screwing up your tax returns. Maybe a family member needed emergency medical treatment, and you were the only person who could help out. Maybe you made a bad investment and lost a large portion of your savings.
Or, maybe your Borderline Personality made life so intolerable that paying taxes was at the bottom of a long to-do list. Filing taxes is stressful and arduous: the USA tax code is so convoluted and backward that people with impulsive tendencies and short fuses (Borderline Personality Disorder Folks 🙂 ) could care less about doing it the right way. Who cares about checking the right exemption boxes and filling out sub-forms when you feel like sh*t and your world is crumbling around you?
Part of me wouldn’t want to use BPD as an excuse unless it was the difference between going to prison or living free with steep fines. Sometimes my pride gets in the way of my own best interests. People with legitimate mental or physical handicaps spend so much of their time minimizing their problems and trying to be “normal” that it almost feels like a cheap, hypocritical excuse to use when things aren’t going your way.
If there are any lawyers out there or people who have faced legal trouble living with a BPD diagnosis, is it possible to use documented mental health problems to mitigate substantial financial or criminal penalties? Is having Borderline Personality a reasonable excuse in the eyes of the law?
True disabilities are conditions that affect the way you live. Obviously BPD wouldn’t excuse you from murder, stalking, or serious theft. However, it might be worth mentioning if you’re facing potential prosecution for financial crimes that didn’t produce any victim other than the government itself.
Living with Borderline Personality Disorder is hell on Earth. If your finances are out of control, try to find someone to help you before you get into trouble. Assign power of attorney to a trusted family member, or hire someone to manage your assets. It will save you a ton of potential grief later on.