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What Is Mental Health Diversion in California?

What Is Mental Health Diversion in California?

Many incarcerated people should have been provided with appropriate mental care due to disorders. Some of them have been deemed incompetent to stand trial. Concerns over this mental health crisis led Governor Brown to sign California’s New Mental Health Diversion Statute into law in 2018.

The Mental Health Diversion program authorizes courts to opt for a discretionary pre-trial diversion procedure if a defendant facing misdemeanor or felony charges demonstrates they have a qualifying mental disorder.

This program does not change the need to hire a reputable criminal defense attorney to help you secure a positive outcome. Establishing eligibility and providing sufficient evidence to obtain a judge’s approval to attend Mental Health Diversion treatments benefits from personalized legal counsel and representation.

What Criminal Offenses Are Ineligible for Mental Health Diversion?

If the defendant is accused of certain severe criminal offenses, they are ineligible for Mental Health Diversion, regardless of their mental health.

These criminal offenses include:

  • Assault with intent to commit rape, sodomy, or oral copulation
  • Commission of rape or sexual penetration in concert with another person
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child
  • Lewd or lascivious act on a child under 14 years of age
  • Murder or voluntary manslaughter
  • Rape

What Mental Disorders Can It Cover?

Mental Health Diversion can apply to various mental disorders featured in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) such as:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Other mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and psychotic disorders may qualify if a mental health specialist diagnoses them. However, antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and pedophilia are not eligible disorders.

The mental disorder must have played an important role in the alleged criminal offense for the defendant to be eligible for Mental Health Diversion.

What Evidence Must the Defendant Provide?

The defendant needs to provide a detailed diagnosis from a qualified mental health professional and any other relevant health reports.

The judge must review both the defendant’s diagnosis and the prosecution’s request before determining whether to move forward with Mental Health Diversion. If the court approves mental health treatment as part of this pre-trial program, the defendant must waive their rights to a speedy trial.

What to Expect During Treatment?

The treatment can last up to two years and may be inpatient or outpatient depending on the defendant's options and preferences. The mental health center or provider must submit regular reports to the court throughout the treatment. Mental health care can help the defendant become healthier and more adjusted to the local community on a professional and personal level.

If the defendant stops complying with treatment, the Mental Health Diversion program typically terminates and criminal proceedings resume, possibly with additional charges.

When the defendant completes the treatment program and has a detailed plan for long-term mental health care, the court typically dismisses the charges.

The arrest records are usually sealed and destroyed. This arrest cannot interfere with the defendant's employability and ability to obtain benefits or professional licenses. The defendant would only need to disclose the arrest if applying to become a peace officer. The court and criminal justice agencies can still access those records.

Hire The Law Office of Nabiel C. Ahmed to Protect Your Future

If you are facing criminal charges in Oakland or its surrounding areas and may qualify for Mental Health Diversion, the Law Office of Nabiel C. Ahmed invites you to reach out to us as soon as possible. You can expect a careful review of your circumstances and we can discuss your legal options.

If Mental Health Diversion is an appropriate defense strategy, attorney Ahmed can guide you throughout the process to secure the necessary evidence and represent you before the court. We tirelessly advocate for our client’s rights and interests, and we strive to obtain a dismissal, acquittal, or reduced charges.

Are you facing criminal charges in the East Bay area and may qualify for Mental Health Diversion? Contact The Law Office of Nabiel C. Ahmed today at (510) 907-6600 to schedule a consultation.