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New California Law Allows Diversion of Charges for Qualified Mental Health Patients

Nov 15, 2018 by Mike McKneely in Criminal Defense, New Laws
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Under recent changes to the California Penal Code, individuals with mental health disorders now have better access to diversion of charges. Pretrial diversion allows you to avoid the formal prosecution of charges against you if you agree to undergo treatment. Once the treatment concludes, the charges are dropped, and the record of your arrest and prosecution are sealed. Whether or not a judge and the prosecutor allow you to go into pretrial diversion depends on the circumstances of your case, and the ability of your Fresno criminal defense lawyer to advocate successfully for this outcome.

To schedule a free case consultation with a skilled attorney at Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer, contact us today at 559-443-7442.

What is the Process for Obtaining Mental Health Diversion?

In June 2018, California Senate Bill 215 became law, thereby creating Penal Code (PC) Section 1001.36, which lays out the requirements for obtaining pretrial diversion for mental health reasons. To obtain a diversion, you and your attorney will need to demonstrate the following:

  • You suffer from a qualifying mental health disorder
  • Your mental health disorder was linked to the offense you were charged with
  • A mental health expert believes that you would respond well to treatment
  • You demonstrate that you do not pose an unreasonable risk of danger to the public
  • You waive your right to a speedy trial
  • You consent to diversion and agree to all of the conditions set forth by the judge

Many qualifying mental health disorders can provide the basis for a pretrial diversion application. The following disorders are accepted:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Any other disorder included in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

The law takes a very inclusive view of what disorders may qualify for diversion of charges. Only the following disorders are specifically excluded from the program: anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and pedophilia.

There are no restrictions as to what offenses the pretrial diversion program is limited to. You can apply for pretrial diversion for any offense, but the judge can grant or deny your application depending on whether they think you pose a risk to the public if you are not incarcerated.

How a California Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

Just because you have a mental health disorder and committed a crime does not mean that a judge will award you pretrial diversion. You will need to demonstrate that you are not a public menace. This can be accomplished by providing the court with positive character references, as well as the supporting reports of a mental health professional.

Another area where the assistance of a lawyer will be useful is in connecting your disorder to the crime. PC Section 1001.36 specifically requires that you disorder be “substantially related” to the offense, which means that your attorney will need to show some causal connection between your mental condition and your criminal behavior. Sometimes, the connection may be obvious, but in some cases, your lawyer will need to present significant evidence to show that your mental health issues caused your criminal behavior.

Contact a Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health disorder and facing criminal prosecution, you may not know where to turn. But Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer is here to help. Attorney Mike McKneely will help you determine if seeking a diversion of charges is the best option in your case. He is ready to fiercely advocate on your behalf at every stage of the criminal justice process. Call 559-443-7442, or reach out online today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.

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