In recent years, the number of referrals to state hospitals of patients who have been deemed unfit to stand trial has drastically increased in California. California is also facing a growing number of homeless people, and a significant portion of them suffer mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorders. The Mental Health Diversion program allows some people with mental health disorders to receive treatment when charged with a crime. This article will discuss California’s Mental Health Diversion program and who can benefit from it.
What is the Mental Health Diversion program?
If you’re a California resident with a mental health disorder and currently facing criminal charges, California laws may dismiss those charges after completing a treatment program. Once you’ve gone through the treatment program, your records are sealed, allowing you somewhat of a fresh start. The process is called Mental Health Diversion and is codified under Section 1001.36 of California’s Penal Code. The Mental Health Diversion program is a form of pre-trial diversion that allows the defendant to postpone their case and commence a treatment plan.
Other forms of pre-trial diversions include drug diversion, bad check diversion, or special diversion programs for former military veterans. The idea behind the Mental Health Diversion Program is simple; if the person facing criminal charges completes the program successfully, her or his charges are dropped and arrest records sealed.
By law, the treatment program can only run for a maximum of 24 months. Judges are also required to consider the needs of the defendant, the community, and the requests of the prosecution, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the program offers inpatient or outpatient services. It’s important to note that a defendant might have to cover the program’s cost, but if he or she can’t, he or she may be able to qualify for public funding.
Upon completion of the treatment program, the court will discharge all the charges you originally faced. However, the law is pretty adamant that all the necessary terms and conditions must be met:
- The defendant must significantly meet all the requirements of the program
- The defendant must not commit any new crimes that would not be related to the disability
- The defendant must create a long-term plan for psychological care
Anyone charged with both misdemeanors and or felonies can become eligible for Mental Health Diversion. However, there are certain factors stipulated by the law, which the defendants must meet in order to attain the eligibility status. The criteria are as follows:
- The defendant must be afflicted with a mental health disorder, which is neither borderline personality disorder, anti-social personality disorder, nor pedophilia. His or her condition must be recorded in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
- The mental health disorder must have played a significant role in the defendant’s crime. To determine this, the court will review police reports, evidence, witness statements, and medical records.
- A qualified mental health expert must conclude that the treatment would positively benefit the defendant.
- The defendant must waive the right of speedy trial guaranteed in the 6th Amendment and consent to the terms of completing the treatment program.
- The defendant must agree to remain fully compliant with the terms of the program.
- The court must determine that the defendant doesn’t pose an unreasonable risk to public safety. At this point, judges will typically consider the opinions of mental health experts and attorneys involved, medical records, witness statements, and other key factors of the case.
Benefits of Mental Health Diversion
There are a couple of benefits that come when one participates in the treatment program as a defendant. First, your criminal charges get dismissed. Once you complete the program, the charges you face are ultimately dismissed. Sealing your arrest records gives the impression that the case never happened. Unfortunately, sealed records aren’t really “gone.” You might still be required to disclose your records when applying to specific government jobs, and agencies related to criminal justice can still access your sealed records.
Second, the program can help get some of the immigration consequences dismissed. The fear of imminent deportation may lie at the back of your head if you’re an immigrant. Although sealed records don’t exempt you from immigration consequences, Mental Health Diversion may help you curtail some immigration consequences.
Finally, the treatment program is a chance to address your mental condition. Apart from the benefits ties to your criminal charges, the program provides defendants with mental health disorders the opportunity to undergo monitored treatment. The Mental Health Diversion program would, therefore, be a reasonable decision for anyone with a mental health issue.
Find help from Saros Law APC
There are several factors to consider before you can apply for Mental Health Diversion in California. Your best bet is relying on a professional criminal defense attorney with experience in the field. Attorney Alison Saros (also a licensed-school counselor) and her team at Saros Law APC is the best option when it comes to petitioning for admission to the Mental Health Diversion program. If you’re interested in achieving the best results for your case, contact us today at (310) 341-3466 to make an appointment with us.