In this blog, we are going to explore the intriguing link between sleep and crime. We will delve into real cases where sleepwalking becomes a controversial legal defense strategy, unraveling the intricate connection between the unconscious mind and criminal actions. Discover the science, legal complexities, and moral debates surrounding this unique phenomenon.
In the realm of criminal justice, where facts, motives, and intentions interweave, there exists a fascinating and often perplexing phenomenon that challenges our understanding of human behavior: the sleepwalking defense. This intricate intersection between sleep and crime has captivated legal scholars, scientists, and the public alike, as it blurs the lines between conscious agency and subconscious activity.
Imagine a scenario where an individual, accused of committing a crime that contradicts their character, claims to have been in a state of sleepwalking during the act. The conventional narrative of criminal intent is suddenly disrupted, replaced by a complex web of neurological and psychological factors that must be unraveled to ascertain the truth. This is where the sleepwalking defense emerges as a unique and controversial strategy, invoking questions not only about the reliability of memory and consciousness but also the limits of personal responsibility.
First, we must address sleepwalking
Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder in which a person executes complex movements and behaviors that occur during the non-REM stages of sleep. REM (rapid eye movement) Sleep is the stage of sleep where we encounter the most vivid dreams. The brain, though inactive, is also active and will weave narratives as well as conjure scenarios that mirror our lives.
Sleepwalking is considered a type of parasomnia as a person who experiences it participates in abnormal behaviors or experiences during sleep.
When a person is sleepwalking, it is possible that they will sit up, get out of bed, and walk around, all while being in a state of partial arousal from sleep. Typically, a sleepwalker’s eyes are open but they may have a more distant, glassy-eyed look and their physical movements can look clumsy or purposeless. All the following is possible for a sleepwalker to do:
- Walk around
- Eat food
- Drive a vehicle
Typically, a sleepwalking episode can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. It is common that a sleepwalker will have little to no memory of what they did during their episode.
It is not known what causes sleepwalking, but it is said to be triggered by many factors including:
- Sleep deprivation
- Certain medications
- Underlying sleep disorders
Sleepwalking typically occurs mainly in children, but it is possible for adults to be affected as well.
The sleepwalking defense
It’s true, the sleepwalking defense has been used in defense of crimes. It is known as the automatism defense; a legal strategy where the defendant claims that they were sleepwalking or in a state of altered consciousness when they committed a crime. The point of this is to say that due to their unconscious state, the person who committed the crime lacked the necessary intent or awareness to be held criminally responsible for their actions.
Luckily, there are not many cases of these in history, as research says this strategy has been used in about 68 different cases.
Is it a plausible defense? Well, many have skepticism. To use the sleepwalking defense, the defendant must meet the following points:
- Lack of control: The defendant in the case must demonstrate that they were sleepwalking or experiencing a dissociative state which would explain that they had no conscious control over their actions.
- Absence of intent: Criminal law requires a guilty mind as a crucial aspect of the crime. Sleepwalkers can argue that since they were not consciously aware of their actions, they couldn’t have had the intent to commit the crime willingly.
- Expert testimony: Due to the skepticism of this form of defense, a defendant must have an expert witness. For example, a sleep specialist, neurologist, or a psychologist. These experts must be able to provide evidence about the defendant’s sleep disorder and its potential ability to cause behaviors such as sleepwalking.
- Causation: The defense must show a direct link between the sleep disorder, in this case sleepwalking, to the alleged criminal act. This would mean there must be evidence such as medical records, prior instances of sleepwalking, or evidence indicating a history of the disorder.
- Legitimate diagnosis: A court will need credible medical evidence to support a sleep disorder diagnosis. A thorough evaluation conducted by qualified medical professionals is crucial to establish the validity of the defense.
Is it really possible for a crime to occur due to sleepwalking?
In past history, those accused of committing a crime that then used a sleepwalking defense have shown that it is possible for crimes to be committed.
In general, when a person is aware that they sleepwalk, they will generally inform others around them, That is what this comes down to. There is no need to panic if you know a frequent sleepwalker. Rather, open communication and plans need to be set in place to continue to protect the sleepwalker, and those around them.
You can do this by:
- Securing the sleeping area
- Reduce triggers
- Ensure safety in the bedroom
- Review medications taken
- Manage stress
- Keep a sleep diary
- Consult with professionals
- Be supportive
Being that one of the possible triggers of sleepwalking is sleep deprivation, it is important to get sleep. Here at Relaxium, we have a sleep supplement called Relaxium Sleep. Relaxium Sleep is designed to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling more refreshed and alert.
Understanding the complexities of sleepwalking
Sleepwalking is a continuously pondered sleep disorder. It is important to become educated when you or someone you know is a sleepwalker. By doing this you can keep yourself and everyone around you safe!
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To restful and healthy days ahead.
The Relaxium Team
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.