Mental health diversion is a pretrial program in California that diverts individuals from the criminal justice system into mental health treatment in lieu of facing a criminal trial or conviction. This is an alternative created for individuals where mental health played a significant part in their alleged crime.
A qualified mental health professional must evaluate the defendant and opine to one or more of the psycholegal questions (as determined by the defendant’s attorney, district attorney, or court) outlined in California Penal Code 1001.36. PC 1001.36 states that the court may grant pretrial diversion, for a period no longer than 2 years, to a defendant if they meet the following criteria:
- The individual (defendant) being charged suffers from a mental health disorder.
- The mental health disorder must have played a significant role in the crime with which the individual is charged with.
- The defendant’s symptoms motivating the criminal behavior would respond to mental health treatment.
- The defendant agrees to comply with treatment as a condition of diversion. Also, the defendant must agree to participate in the mental health diversion program and waive their right to a speedy trial. During the mental health diversion program, the trial process is put on hold until the person completes the mental health treatment program.
- The court determines that the individual will not pose “an unreasonable risk” to public safety. This will be determined by the judge after reviewing the opinions of medical experts, mental health professionals, attorneys involved with the case, medical records, and other factors.
What Mental Health Disorders Qualify for The Diversion Program?
The defendant must be suffering from a mental health condition other than an antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or pedophilia to qualify for mental health diversion. The qualifying mental health disorder must be listed in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) and be diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional. Some qualifying mental health conditions include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Schizoaffective disorder
Our evaluation will assess for psychological factors that can impact the behavior motivating the misconduct. It typically involves:
- Consultation with the defendant’s attorney to determine the psycholegal questions that need to be answered.
- A clinical interview with the defendant.
- A collateral interview with a family member, treatment provider, or other support system member. The interview will help us gather additional information about the individual’s general and psychological background, behavior, and response to prior treatment.
- A review of medical and mental health treatment records, as well as legal documents such as discovery, help us have a better understanding of the client’s behavior the night of the alleged offense and their overall psychological functioning.
- We will administer psychological tests to objectively assess for mental health symptoms and disorders.
- If needed, we will utilize a risk assessment tool to assist with our structured decisions and opinions about future violence risk.
Last, we will write a legally defensible report that integrates our findings and give it to the defendant’s attorney.
To learn more about our approach to Mental Health Diversions, contact our office in Glendora at (626) 709-3494.