Mental Health Diversion

Mental Health Diversion Explained

If you’re a California resident with a mental health disorder who has been charged with a crime, a state law may allow you to have those charges dismissed if you complete treatment. Once treatment is complete, records are typically then sealed — allowing the person who was charged to move forward without a blemish on their record.

That law (Penal Code 1001.36) came into effect in 2018 following the passage of California Senate Bill 2015.

Mental health diversion is a new form of an existing category of programs called “pre-trial diversions.” Some common forms of pre-trial diversions include drug diversion, bad check diversion and special diversion programs for military veterans accused of crimes.

The idea behind all such programs is simple: If the accused completes a diversion treatment program successfully, the charges will be dismissed and the case records sealed.

Who Qualifies for Mental Health Diversion?

Those charged with both misdemeanors and felonies can become eligible for mental health diversion. However, there are criteria that must be met in order to attain eligible status. Those criteria are as follows:

  • The person being charged suffers from a mental health disorder and that disorder is not borderline personality disorder, anti-social personality disorder or pedophilia. This condition must be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which includes common diagnoses such as PTSD and schizophrenia.
  • The mental health disorder in question must have played a significant role in the crime for which the defendant is charged. Judges will review police reports, witness statements, medical records etc. to make this determination.
  • A qualified mental health expert must conclude that mental health treatment would have a positive effect on the defendant.
  • The person being charged consents to the mental health diversion program and waives the right to a speedy trial. Because a speedy trial is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment — and the terms of completing a diversion program cannot be reconciled with this right — defendants must agree to forego this constitutional protection.
  • The person being charged agrees to remain in full compliance with the terms of the diversion program.
  • The court finds that the person being charged does not pose “an unreasonable risk” to public safety. Judges will typically weigh the opinions of medical experts, the attorneys involved with the case, medical records, witness statements and other factors when making this finding.

Other Key Facts about Mental Health Diversion

Under California state law, mental health diversion treatment may be inpatient or outpatient and may not last for more than 24 months. Judges are tasked with considering the needs of the defendant, the needs of the community and the requests of both the prosecution and defense when approving a treatment plan.

If a defendant cannot pay for treatment, he or she may be able to qualify for public funds. If the defendant completes treatment successfully, the court will dismiss the charge, provided there is a long-term care plan in place.

Should the defendant fail to comply with treatment, the original charges may be reinstated.

Finding the Right Attorney

If you or a loved one would benefit from the California mental health diversion program, it’s imperative that you speak to an experienced attorney. Goldstein Law has helped countless California residents find a just and equitable resolution to criminal charges.

Please contact us today for more information.