Me, Myself, and I

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Criminal Sentencing

In recent years, society has shown an increased willingness to openly discuss and better understand mental illnesses and disorders. Often, these discussions reflect the understanding that an individual suffering from mental illness is not much different than an individual suffering from a physical illness. This discourse has underscored an important issue: individuals who suffer from a mental illness or disorder may take some action because of their condition. The way a mental disorder may impact an individual’s mental state has especially important significance in the context of the criminal justice system. Indeed, the prison population in the United States has higher rates of mental illness and disorders than the general population. And the criminal’s mental state can directly bare on what charges or ultimate sentence the criminal may face.

This Note argues that judges ought to consider a criminal defendant’s personality disorder as a mitigating factor during sentencing. Specifically, this note argues that sentencing statutes should list narcissistic personality disorder (“NPD”) as a mitigating factor. Symptoms of NPD can include a sense of entitlement, lack of empathy, and exploitative behavior (among other things), and some studies have linked NPD to violent behavior. Although many sentencing schemes today provide judges with great flexibility and would allow a judge to consider NPD as mitigating, presenting evidence of NPD can be a double-edged sword: the NPD evidence presented may be both aggravating and mitigating, ultimately resulting in a harsher sentence for the defendant. But because an individual may be more likely to commit a crime because of NPD—in other words, because of a mental condition—the individual’s culpability is lessened and any sentence rendered should reflect this culpability. This Note advocates for sentencing statutes that specifically list NPD as a mitigating factor, allowing defendants to more freely present evidence that will lead to more just and fair sentencing.

a J.D. 2020, University of Illinois College of Law; B.A., Loyola University Chicago.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.