Durham rule


: a formerly used legal test under which a person was not judged responsible for a criminal act that was attributed to a mental disorder

Word History


Monte Durham, 20th century American litigant

First Known Use

1955, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Durham rule was in 1955

Dictionary Entries Near Durham rule

Cite this Entry

“Durham rule.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Durham%20rule. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Legal Definition

Durham rule

Dur·​ham rule
ˈdu̇r-əm-, ˈdər-
: a rule of criminal law used in some states that holds that in order to find a defendant not guilty by reason of insanity the defendant's criminal act must be the product of a mental disease or defect compare irresistible impulse test, m'naghten test, substantial capacity test

from Durham v. United States, 214 F.2d 862 (1954), a case heard by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals that established the rule

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