Written by Dr. Nicole M. Vienna

April 15, 2020

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A Judge Bangs a Gavel

Mental health diversion is a pretrial program in California that diverts individuals from the criminal justice system into mental health treatment, in lieu facing a criminal trial or conviction. This is an alternative created for individuals where mental health played a significant part in their alleged crime.

California Penal Code 1001.36 Mental Health Diversion (PC 1001.36 PC) states that the court may grant pretrial diversion, for a period no longer that 2 years, to a defendant if they meet the following criteria:

  1. The individual being charged suffers from a mental health disorder.
  2. The mental health disorder must have played a significant role in the crime for which the individual is charged with.
  3. A qualified mental health professional must evaluate and conclude that the individual being charged will benefit from seeking mental health treatment.
  4. The individual 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 individual completes the mental health treatment program.
  5. The individual being charged agrees to comply with all requirements of the mental health treatment program.
  6. The court determines that the individual will not pose “an unreasonable risk” to public safety. This will be determined by the judge after reviewing 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

How a Mental Health Diversion evaluation from VPG can help

A mental health diversion evaluation from VPG focuses on the following questions:

– Does the individual have a qualifying mental disorder?

– Did the individual’s mental disorder play a role in the criminal allegations he/she is charged with?

– Would the individual’s symptoms that are responsible for the alleged offense respond to treatment?

– Are there any unreasonable risks to public safety if the individual is allowed to participate and be treated in the community?

VPG will complete a thorough diagnostic interview, obtain collateral information, conduct relevant testing and risk assessments. The findings will be integrated into a comprehensive report that will be provided to you, the attorney, that may be useful in representing your client in court.

Please call our office for a free 20-minute case consultation to find out how one of our specialized evaluations can assist you and your client. If you are a client interested in this service, please have your attorney reach out to us first. Our office administrators can be reached at: 626-709-3494 or support@vpg.corp.com


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC:  Author.

Mental Health Diversion, Cal. Penal Code § 1001.36

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