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    Understanding California’s Mental Health Diversion Program

    Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Dod Law

    California’s Mental Health Diversion Program has been around since its official start in 2018. This program aims to keep individuals with mental health issues away from arrests and incarceration when facing convictions for low-level offenses. The diversion from incarceration and severe penalties for the individuals who qualify help them receive needed treatment and prevent future illegal activity.

    At Dod Law, our experienced legal team is here to help those that need legal representation in San Diego and have a history of mental illness. California’s program helps those that need mental health treatment as a solution, rather than unjust incarceration for their wrongdoings. Continue reading to learn more about California’s Mental Health Diversion Program and how an experienced lawyer can help those facing charges as a result of mental illness.

    The Mental Health Diversion Program

    California’s Mental Health Diversion Program aims to keep individuals with mental health issues out of jail and trouble with the law. In 2021, the budget act allocated $47.6 million to support expanding the state hospital’s diversion program. This is projected to help the program’s continual efforts to provide treatment for those Incompetent to Stand Trial (IST) who face felony charges stemming from mental illness or homelessness.

    This program is geared towards helping specific individuals by providing resources and long-term treatments that avoid being institutionalized. Many people who struggle with mental illness often find themselves cycling through the criminal justice system. With the mental health diversion program, these individuals have a chance to get the proper treatment needed to get out of this cycle.

    How Do I Know If I Am Eligible?

    The program mainly services individuals with mental illness facing low-level felony charges. California’s penal code 1001.36 explains that an individual with mental illness qualifies for pretrial diversion if they:

    • Suffer from a mental health disorder
    • Can demonstrate that the mental health disorder played a role in the criminal offense
    • Are suitable for enrolling in a mental health treatment program determined by the court to prevent the mental illness symptoms causing criminal behavior
    • Are willing to enroll in a mental health treatment program determined by the court and waive their right to a trial to facilitate the treatment
    • Are determined not to be a risk to public safety when receiving mental health treatment in the community

    It is essential to speak with an experienced lawyer who can help you navigate the criminal justice system. Individuals who have mental illness often need help treating their symptoms and getting professional help. Having a lawyer on your side will help you find the resources to get the treatment you need as part of the pretrial diversion law.

    What If I Am Not Eligible?

    In some cases, individuals may not be eligible for diversion due to the severity of their mental illness or other extenuating circumstances. A judge can order the individual to be detained and receive treatment in a state hospital in these instances. According to mental health diversion laws, some crimes are ineligible for the program. These criminal offenses include:

    • Terrorism
    • Lewd acts involving minors
    • Murder and voluntary manslaughter
    • Sexual abuse of a child
    • Assault with intent to commit rape, sodomy, or oral copulation

    Individuals with low-level criminal charges such as public intoxication, possession of a controlled substance, and being under the influence of a controlled substance can qualify for misdemeanor diversion. This program is geared to helping those who qualify for diversion, and having an experienced legal team can help you determine your eligibility.

    What Do the Treatment Programs Entail?

    When pretrial diversion is granted, the individual will begin their mental health treatment as an effort to treat their symptoms, avoid incarceration, and prevent future criminal charges. Mental health treatments include:

    • Therapy sessions with a licensed professional
    • Drug treatments as recommended by a psychiatrist
    • Counseling with a licensed mental health professional

    The court determines mental health treatment regimens and closely follows up to two years. Individuals granted this diversion can be enrolled in either inpatient or outpatient programs and have their charges dismissed or sealed away once the program is completed.

    Contact Dod Law for Skilled Legal Representation When Facing Convictions Resulting from Mental Illness

    Anyone diagnosed with a mental health disorder and facing felony charges may qualify for pretrial diversion. At Dod Law, San Diego criminal defense attorney Dod Ghassemkhani is dedicated to helping individuals with mental health disorders in San Diego when they face criminal charges resulting from the symptoms of their illness. A skilled and qualified attorney can help you review your charges and explain who qualifies for the program. If you are an individual facing criminal charges due to a mental health disorder, contact us using our online form or give us a call at (619) 814-5110 to schedule your free consultation.

    At a Glance

    Meet Attorney Dod Ghassemkhani

    • Recent Case Results
    • San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association | Named San Diego County’s 2023 Trial Lawyer Of The Year
    • Award Winning Criminal Defense Attorney
    • The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers
    • Over 20 years of criminal defense experience
    • 10.0 “Superb” Avvo Rating