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Mental Health Diversion in California Criminal Cases


Mental health diversion has now come on the scene in Los Angeles.  A lot of defense attorneys are trying to get this mental health diversion for their clients which is something that has just been passed into law.

Basically, what it does is it allows somebody to avoid a conviction on their record.  It allows them to get a dismissal at the end of the case. Mental Health Diversion is a form of diversion under California law, having only become effective in June of 2018 after passage of California Senate Bill 215.

To give readers a better understanding of mental health diversion, our California criminal defense attorneys are providing an overview below.

Eligibility for California Mental Health Diversion

The two main things you’re looking at in attempting to get mental health diversion — and I’ve tried to get it for a lot of my clients — had success for some clients; been unable to get it on other clients. Under California Penal Code 1001.36 Mental Health Diversion, defendants who have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime could be eligible.Mental Health Diversion in California Criminal Cases Penal Code 1001.36

First you have to determine that your client has some sort of a mental issue.  That’s pretty broad.  It can be a lot of different issues.  It can be substance abuse.  It can be because someone is a Veteran and they have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  There’s a whole host of different things that can qualify as a mental issue.

The way that you ferret this mental issue aspect of the mental health diversion out is by getting an expert to evaluate your client and diagnose them with a mental health issue and then you can put that in your Motion to the judge to try to get the mental health diversion.

The second aspect of the mental health diversion is, whatever mental issue the person has, has to have something to do with the crime that they committed.  In other words, when they’re using their mental health issues they’re in a position where they are committing a crime and it’s because of the mental health issue that they commit the crime.

This is usually where the big problem is.  The person doesn’t commit the crime because if that person say no, I was just defending myself.  In that case, you’re not going to be able to assert the mental health diversion program because you have a defense to your crime.  You don’t have a situation where your mental issues is taking over.

So, that’s where people are getting into a bit of a problem because they want to fight their cases — they want to argue against it — but on the flip side they want to try to use that mental health diversion.

Reviewing Best Strategy with a Criminal Lawyer

So, that’s something you need to talk to with your attorney and you and your attorney can find out the best strategy to really see if the mental health diversion works for you or not.  Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn’t.

But I think the bottom line is, if you sit down with your attorney and talk about it, you get a psychiatrist to evaluate you, get the report, review the report, and go over everything with your attorney, then you can really see if this mental health diversion in Los Angeles county makes sense for you or not.

Don’t forget, even if you get mental health diversion you’re going to have to plead guilty or no contest.  You’re going to have to do certain things.  You’re going to have to see a psychiatrist and in seeing the psychiatrist, you’re going to have to give them all the information and they’re going to have to diagnose you with some sort of a mental illness.  If you don’t have a mental illness, then obviously you’re not going to be able to utilize the mental health diversion.

It’s interesting because there’s a lot of different crimes that will allow you to get mental health diversion.  Really, the only limitations seem to be murder cases and sex-related offenses.

But beyond that, you can usually mount an argument to try to get this mental health diversion.  You go through the entire probation period after pleading guilty or no contest, and then in end if you complete everything successfully, you put yourself in a position to get your case dismissed.

Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense firm located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. We are also located at 633 West Fifth Street Los Angeles, CA 90071. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 374-3952.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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