Attorneys with our Los Angeles and Ventura based law firm Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, continue to successfully use the recently enacted mental health diversion statute (Penal Code Section 1001.36) to help their clients avoid serious criminal convictions. Most recently, partner Jeremy Lessem helped client-facing multiple felony strikes and more than 16 years in state prison successfully enter mental health diversion instead of being incarcerated. The expectation now is that all charges against the client will be completely dismissed upon the completion of 2 years of mental health treatment.
Penal Code 1001.36 in Action
The Los Angeles county-based client was charged with robbery and residential burglary, both felony strike offenses under California's three-strikes law. On top of that, the client had a prior strike conviction from several years ago, for which he served a prison sentence. These combinations of charges and priors meant the client was looking at a potential prison sentence of more than 16 years.
Despite the seriousness of the charged offenses, partner Jeremy Lessem quickly decided that these charges were the result of the client's long-established mental health issues. "I knew once I met the client that none of this would have happened if not for his bipolar symptoms," explained attorney Lessem. "At that point, I decided the best course of action was to convince the Court that this was someone that needed treatment, not incarceration."
In preparation for a mental health diversion motion, Mr. Lessem hired an experienced forensic psychiatrist to complete a detailed report outlining the client's mental health history. The report also linked the charged conduct to the client's established bipolar diagnosis. Once the connection between the illness and behavior was established through the expert, the next step was finding the right treatment plan. The plan not only needed to be appropriate to the client's needs but also needed to convince the judge and prosecutor that the plan would keep the community safe as well.
"In these cases, one of the hardest things is always trying to find the right program. The program not only needs to adequately address the client's medical needs, but it needs to convince the judge that the client won't go out and commit another serious offense," explains Mr. Lessem. "Unfortunately, there simply aren't a lot of good options out there for clients with severe mental health issues, and finding the right program isn't easy to do."
Mental Health Diversion
For the complex task of placing the client in the best possible treatment program, our law firm utilizes the services of an in-house mental health placement expert. This member of the Lessem, Newstat & Tooson team, interviews the client and their family to determine what resources are available. He then reviews all the relevant reports and then utilizes his connections with programs throughout Southern California to find the best fit.
The final step is putting all the relevant information together into a compelling Mental Health Diversion Motion. The motion not only sets forth the relevant legal analysis but also lays out the compelling reasons why this particular client deserves to have his or her charges diverted. In this case, the motion contained over 60 pages of exhibits, which laid out not only the client's mental health history but demonstrated the client's significant accomplishments in the community. "School transcripts, employment records, letters from family and friends, it's all extremely important in showing the Court the human side of the client," explains Lessem.
In the end, the motion, in this case, was so compelling the district attorney's office ultimately elected to not oppose the client's request for diversion. As a result, the judge granted the motion without opposition.
As Mr. Lessem explains, "this was a case where due to the serious nature of the charges, many defense attorneys wouldn't even have attempted to try for diversion. However, in the end, not only did we get diversion, but the D.A. didn't even fight us on it. Now, instead of going to prison, the client is going to get the help he needs. Ultimately these incredibly serious charges are going to be dismissed. I couldn't be happier for him." The client agrees, "When I first was arrested for the charges, I thought that my life as I know it was over. I fully expected that I was going back to prison for a long time. The work Jeremy put into this case has literally given me a second chance at life."
Contact Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP for Legal Advice
With multiple successful Mental Health Diversion Motions in the last few months alone, no law firm in Southern California is better suited at getting relief under this statute than Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP. If you or a loved one suffers from mental illness and is charged with a crime, give us a call and see what the best mental health attorneys in California can do to help.
For a free initial legal consultation, call us at (800) 295-1054 or contact us online today.