Pretrial Mental Health Diversion for Misdemeanors and Felonies

Mental Health Diversions In Criminal Cases: California Penal Code 1001.35-1001.36

Section 1001.36 of the California Penal Code offers a pretrial mental health diversionary program that may apply in some cases. This statute offers an alternative to typical criminal prosecution to certain felony or misdemeanor criminal cases. It basically offers qualified defendants a chance to get mental health treatment after getting charged with a crime; however, it only applies in some circumstances.

This regulation was designed to have a positive impact on public safety and treatment for people with mental disorders.

If you or someone you love has a mental disorder and was charged with a crime, you may be eligible for Pretrial Diversion under the 2018 California Mental Health Diversion program for criminal cases.

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How to Qualify for Mental Health Diversion under California PC 1001.36?

This outlines the basic criteria that must be met to qualify for a mental health diversion:

  • Mental Health Disorder: The defendant has to suffer from a qualified mental disorder. In addition, the disorder had to be a significant factor in the offense. As a note, the Court is allowed to consider the defendant’s behavior during or around the time he or she committed the crime.
  • Treatment Response: A qualified expert in mental health must demonstrate that the disorder’s symptoms that led to the offense would respond positively to treatment. Then, defendants also have to agree that they will comply with the the treatment plan. Both private and public treatment plans my qualify.
  • Time Span And Responsibilities: That treatment can last a maximum of two years. In addition either the treatment program or the defendant has a duty to provide the Court with reports regularly. In this case, defendants must waive their rights to speedy trials.
  • Public Safety: Finally, the court has to determine that the defendant won’t pose a risk to the public safety if allowed treatment in the community instead of incarceration. Learn more about how a risk to public safety is defined below.

What mental disorders qualify? The defendant must have a condition that is listed in the latest edition of the Diagnotic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Many diagnosed mental health disorders qualify under this regulation. Some examples could include substance abuse, ADD, and depression. Not all mental disorders qualify, and some examples of these include many personality disorders and pedophilia. Also, in the case of people with alcohol or other substance abuse disorders, there are some concerns that it may not apply to DUI crimes, but this hasn’t been well tested in the courts yet. Basically, the regulation is meant to apply to mental disorders that have a good chance of benefiting from established treatment plans.

Removal Before Successful Completion Of The Mental Health Treatment Program

Also, people in the California diversionary program can get removed under certain circumstances. This removal is not automatic but can only follow a hearing. Some circumstances for removal could include getting charged with additional crimes while in the program or unsatisfactory performance. Also, if the defendant is later judged mentally incompetent, they may be removed from this program after a hearing. In the case of a removal, the Court will decide upon the next step for the defendant.

What Is Meant By A Risk To The Public’s Safety?

If the Court determines that the defendant poses a great risk of committing another violent felony, they also won’t qualify for this program. In these terms, violent felonies refer to crimes like violent assaults and murder. These kinds of crimes are punishable with incarceration in a state prison or even the death penalty. Defendants in these treatment programs still will get released back to the community during treatment, so the Court will want to be sure that is a safe and sensible action to take.

What Are The Benefits Of California’s Mental Health Diversion?

This program can offer benefits to both the public and the defendant. Hopefully, more defendants will have to get the treatment that they need to recover their mental health. Typically, these are not people with a great history of violent offenses and who do suffer from mental illnesses that experts believe that they can treat.

This makes the individuals in the program much more likely to keep out of trouble with the law and also to keep from endangering other people. The State Of California deemed it prudent to seek treatment over punishment when a crime was largely committed because of a treatable mental illness.

What Happens After The Program Ends Successfully?

Once a person has successfully completed their diversionary treatment program, the arrest is deemed as if it never occurred. The Court can seal the record. This means that defendants don’t have to say anything about the arrest when applying for most jobs.

Some public safety jobs are an exception to this. In addition, this arrest and diversion record can’t be used with consent in a way that might result in a denial for benefits, employment, a license, or a certificate. Mostly, the defendant can continue on with life and hopefully, further treatment as needed.

Can Anybody Open The Sealed Diversion Record?

Most people will not have access to this sealed record, and typically, it doesn’t have to be reported for any questions about a criminal history on things like job or benefit applications. The Justice Department and other criminal justice agencies are exception to this.

It’s possible that the police, probation officers, lawyers, investigators, or experts could obtain access. However, it could only be used if relevant to a legal matter. This regulation provides a balance between protecting public safety and an individual’s right to privacy after complying with a mental health treatment program.

How The Mental Health Diversion Program Helps California

The regulation can help encourage more people to get treatment that will help them live in the community. It may help them keep their jobs or make it easier to get another job in the future. The intent of this regulation is to help people with mental disorders become productive through treatment for their mental health problems.

It can also help keep these people from committing the kinds of crimes that they might only do if they are suffering from treatable symptoms of a serious mental disorder. By keeping treatable offenders out of prison, the California Mental Health Diversion Program, also known as Penal Code 1001.35-1001.36, could relieve overcrowded prisons, burdened courts, and taxpayers.

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