What Is Mental Health Diversion in California?
In 2018, the California Senate passed State Senate Bill 215, creating the California Mental Health Diversion Law, which became Penal Code 1001.36 in 2018. This law allows people who have a mental health disorder to have their charges dismissed and their case records sealed if they complete a court-ordered mental health treatment program. Our California Criminal Defense Law Firm can help you if you have been accused of a crime and have a diagnosed mental health disorder. Read on to discover what this law means for you.
How Can I Qualify for Mental Health Diversion in California?
In order to qualify for California’s Mental Health Diversion Law, you must be diagnosed with a mental disorder identified in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Some of these disorders include (but are not limited to):
- Post-traumatic stress order (PTSD)
- Schizoaffective disorder
- Bipolar disorder
Disorders that DO NOT qualify you to use the mental health diversion in California include:
- Borderline personality disorder
- Antisocial personality disorder
In addition, your criminal defense attorney must provide evidence of your mental disorder and a recent diagnosis by a qualified mental health expert. The mental disorder must also be proven to have been a significant factor in the commission of the criminal offense with which you have been charged. A mental health expert must testify that your symptoms that caused you to commit this criminal offense would benefit from mental health treatment.
When you agree to a mental health diversion in California, you are waiving your rights to the constitutional protection of a speedy trial. You must also agree to comply with treatment. The court must determine that you do not pose an unreasonable risk to the public.
Are There Criminal Offenses That Do Not Qualify for Mental Health Diversion?
You may not be placed into a mental health diversion in California (unless the prosecutor consents to it) if you are charged with one of the following criminal offenses:
- Murder or voluntary manslaughter
- Lewd/lascivious act on a child under age 14
- Assault with intent to commit rape, sodomy or oral copulation
- Commission of rape or sexual penetration in concert with another person
- Continuous sexual abuse of a child
- DUI causing injury
- California gun crimes
- California drug crimes
- Child pornography
What Happens If I Commit Another Criminal Offense While in Mental Health Treatment?
If you receive a mental health diversion for a crime with which you have been charged, and then commit another crime, certain things will happen. In short, if you:
- Are charged with a new misdemeanor that shows a tendency towards violence
- Are charged with a new felony
- Engage in criminal acts that make you unsuitable for mental health diversion;
You will be brought into court for a hearing which will decide one of these outcomes:
- Your mental health diversion treatment plan should be modified
- Criminal proceedings must be reinstated against you
- You should be referred to a conservatorship (a legal arrangement in which someone else is appointed to handle your own affairs until a judge deems otherwise)
How Long Is a Mental Health Diversion Treatment Program and Who Pays for It?
Under Penal Code 1001.36, the mental health treatment program that is offered to you after a mental health diversion is granted can last no longer than two years. The length of time of your treatment program will depend upon your needs, determination of the public’s safety, and the will of the court.
You do not have to pay for your own mental health treatment program if you receive a mental health diversion in California. If you cannot afford treatment, it may be paid for by public or private funds. If you cannot afford private mental health treatment, you may be sent to a county mental health agency or apply for public help.