How Mental Health Diversion Works
The primary goal behind Mental Health Diversion is to provide the treatment
defendants with mental health issues need in lieu of traditional criminal
penalties such as incarceration and a criminal record. The program takes
into account the long-standing failures of the criminal justice system
in helping mentally ill individuals, as well as accepted medical theories
and statistics that show the benefit of treatment over standard punishment.
Here are a few key points about how it works:
- Mental Health Diversion applies to any misdemeanor or felony (although
courts are less likely to use their discretion to grant diversion in cases
involved the most serious offenses).
- The program can be instituted during any point of the judicial process
until trial, and may be an option for defendants who are found mentally
incompetent to stand trial.
- Any recommended treatment program must meet a defendant’s needs,
may be obtained through the use of private or public funds, must provide
regular progress reports, and may not persist for longer than two years.
- Upon successful completion of Mental Health Diversion defendants will have
their charges dismissed and arrest records restricted. A defendant is
said to have successfully completed diversion when they have complied
with requirements, have not been charged with significant new crimes,
and have established long-term plans to care for their mental health.
California’s Mental Health Diversion program can be immensely beneficial
to individuals who struggle with mental health issues, and to the families
of these individuals, by allowing them to seek the support and treatment
they need without the consequences of traditional penalties and other
long-term ramifications that accompany criminal records. While the program
exists, it is important to remember that defendants must still prove their
eligibility, and argue against any claims raised by prosecutors regarding
their suitability when they arise.
You can find
more information on our blog about PC 1001.36 and issues related to Mental Health Diversion in California.
Mental Health Diversion Eligibility & Termination / Modification
Under PC 1001.36, there are two important proceedings for addressing criminal
matters involving defendants who suffer from mental disorders. These include:
1. Eligibility / Suitability Hearings – Per PC 1001.36 (b) and (2), judges overseeing criminal cases have
discretion in determining whether or not defendants are
suitable for Mental Health Diversion. During these hearings, courts focus on 5 important
factors for eligibility, including:
- The defendant has a qualifying mental disorder;
- The defendant’s mental disorder played a role in the criminal allegations
- Mental health expert opinions state the defendant’s symptoms responsible
for criminal behavior would respond to treatment;
- The defendant provides their consent to Mental Health Diversion and waives
their rights to a speedy trial (unless declared incompetent);
- The defendant agrees they will comply with diversion treatment requirements.
In addition to these factors, courts will also evaluate an additional factor
for determining whether or not a defendant is suitable for Mental Health
Diversion. This includes determining whether or not they pose any unreasonable
risks to public safety if they are allowed to participate and be treated
in the community. To assess this risk, and other factors, courts may consider
a range of facts and evidence, including the opinions of mental health
experts, prosecutors, and defense counsel, as well as law enforcement
reports, criminal history, and more.
2. Termination / Modification Hearings – Hearings over termination or modification of a defendant’s
participation in Mental Health Diversion occur when a defendant is charged
with a new misdemeanor or felony allegation while in the program, is involved
in criminal conduct (even without arrest or conviction), is not performing
satisfactorily, or has been determined by an expert to be gravely disabled.
How Our Southern California Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help
Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP has cultivated a reputation as an experienced,
passionate, and successful criminal defense law firm. Over the years,
our award-winning lawyers have leveraged their insight in criminal law
and their work in mental health to help individuals and families protect
rights when confronted with matters involving the criminal justice system,
and particularly those involving mental health issues.
With California’s new Mental Health Diversion Program, our firm is
quickly becoming a leader in protecting the rights of defendants with
mental health struggles, and exploring their options for participation,
successful completion, and a brighter future.
Speak with a member of our team today about California’s Mental Health
Diversion and how we can help.
Contact us for a free consultation.