LA Mental Health Lawyer Helps You Avoid Jail With CA Mental Health Diversionary Program

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is considering canceling a $1.7-billion contract that is slated to help improve Men’s Central Jail downtown, and instead use the funds to meet the county’s increasing need for mental health services and facilities. This proposed change of plan isn’t surprising as many local activists and political leaders have been outspoken in recent years about the number of prisoners with mental disorders who are currently serving time behind bars. Many of these inmates may be eligible for diversion into community-based services, rather than staying behind bars, if the Board of Supervisors is serious about funneling more funding into our mental health diversionary programs.

Mental Health Lawyer Near Me

Here in Los Angeles we often hear about celebrities who have run into legal trouble being ordered to participate in mental health diversion programs in lieu of serving time in jail. The news often portrays this option as a sort of get out of jail free card that is only available for the rich and famous. We are here to tell you that this is simply not the case. Mental health diversionary programs in Los Angeles, and throughout California, are available for anyone who qualifies, regardless of your celebrity status. Because there is so much misinformation circulating about these programs, My Rights Law Group – Criminal & DUI Attorneys’ Los Angeles mental health attorney has answered some frequently asked questions about mental health diversionary programs in California in order to help set the record straight. 

Q: What is a mental health diversionary program?

A: A mental health diversionary program is a series of classes, counseling sessions, activities, etc. that an individual with mental health issues, who has been accused of committing a crime, can sometimes be allowed to participate in rather than going to court and facing traditional punishments (such as serving time). Here in California, we have a law (section 1001.36 of the Penal Code) that offers qualifying criminal defendants the option of receiving mental health treatment rather than being prosecuted in court for the crime they allegedly committed. This is called a pretrial diversion program because the program is offered before a trial even begins. In some states, the option of participating in a diversionary program is only offered after the defendant has been tried and convicted. 

Q: Who is eligible for a mental health diversion in California?

A: In a nutshell, you must meet the following criteria in order to qualify for a mental health diversion under California law:

  • You suffer from a qualified mental health disorder,
  • This mental disorder played a significant factor in the offense you are accused of committing,
  • A qualified mental health expert believes that your disorder’s relevant symptoms would respond well to treatment,
  • You agree to comply with the proposed treatment plan,
  • You waive your rights to a speedy trial (as the proposed treatment plan may contain a treatment timeline of up to two years), and 
  • The court must determine that you will not pose a risk to public safety if allowed to continue living in the community.

Q: What is a “qualified mental health disorder”?

A: In order to have a qualifying mental health disorder you must have been diagnosed with at least one of the conditions listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 

Most defendants who participate in California’s mental health diversionary programs have been diagnosed with either bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or schizophrenia. However, it must be noted that some listed mental health disorders do not qualify a defendant for a diversionary program. For example, if you have been diagnosed with pedophilia, borderline personality disorder, or antisocial personality disorder then you may not have a qualifying disorder. 

Q: What are the benefits of participating in a mental health diversionary program?

A: The upside of participating in, and successfully completing, a mental health diversionary program is significant. First, you are able to avoid the headache and expense of going to trial. Furthermore, you avoid the possibility of being sentenced to serve time in jail, pay a fine, etc. And, as the cherry on top, the charges filed against you will be dropped and your record will be sealed!

Q: What happens if I start participating in a diversionary program but don’t complete it?

A: If you start participating in a mental health diversionary program in California but do not successfully complete it then the government has the option of prosecuting you for the crime which you were originally charged with.

A CA mental health diversionary program can be deemed unsuccessful for a variety of different reasons. For example, your program may be terminated if you refuse to comply with the terms of your treatment plan, are charged with a new misdemeanor that demonstrates a propensity for violence, are charged with a felony, engage in criminal conduct, or if a mental health professional tells the court that your performance in the program is unsatisfactory, or that you are gravely disabled. 

Do I Qualify for a California Mental Health Diversion Program?

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Los Angeles County and are interested in learning more about California’s mental health diversionary programs, contact a Los Angeles mental health lawyer at My Rights Law Group – Criminal & DUI Attorneys today at (213) 878-7699. One of their exceptional criminal defense lawyers would be happy to meet with you to discuss these programs and your legal options during a completely confidential consultation. Whatever you choose to share with your attorney is protected by attorney-client privilege so you can feel safe sharing the details of your cases and the status of your mental health without fear of negative repercussions.