California’s Mental Health Diversion Law Amended: Why this change should result in more courts utilizing the mental health diver

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The California legislature made amendments to Penal Code section 1001.36, which aims to promote the use of mental health diversion in the criminal justice system. The law became effective on January 1, 2023.

The Penal Code section 1001.36 was passed in 2018 to address the issue of criminal defendants who suffer from mental illness or disorders. The statute provides defendants the opportunity to request the court to divert their criminal case and enroll in a structured treatment program. The court will dismiss the charges if the treatment program is successful.

The law recognized that offenders sometimes commit crimes due to a mental disorder, such as drug addiction or bipolar disorder. Penal Code section 1001.36 aims to tackle the underlying reasons for the defendant’s entry and re-entry into the criminal justice system.

To be eligible for mental health diversion, the defendant must have been diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM”). The recent amendment introduces a significant change to the statute. Previously, the court had to be satisfied that the defendant suffers from a mental disorder. However, the newly enacted version requires that the disorder should be a significant factor in committing the alleged offense.

The former version of the statute was underutilized, and the amendment aims to increase the number of mental health diversion orders. Previously, only a few hundred defendants in LA County received mental health diversion under the statute. The new version of the statute seeks to resolve this issue and increase the number of mental health diversion orders.

The amended statute creates a crucial change in the criminal justice system. It establishes a rebuttable presumption that there is a connection between a person’s mental health disorder and the charged offense. This means that if a defendant is diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder and a connection can be established between the mental syndrome and the crime, the court must order mental health diversion.

Although there were other minor changes to the statute, most of the requirements from the previous law remain the same. The new amendment takes some of the responsibility off the courts and encourages the use of mental health diversion in the criminal justice system.

In conclusion, the amendments to the Penal Code section 1001.36 are significant in promoting mental health diversion in the criminal justice system. The changes offer vital support to defendants who suffer from mental illness or disorders and help to address the underlying causes of defendants’ entry and re-entry into the criminal justice system.

Halley J. Peters, your Orange County criminal defense attorney, will analyze your case and determine whether you may be eligible for mental health diversion – which often results in clients receiving the mental health case needed to be rehabilitated in order to function to the best of their abilities in their communities.  At the same time, while receiving this case – and abiding by the court’s direction – this mechanism may provide for the charges to be dismissed.  This is something only a skilled criminal defense attorney like Halley J. Peters can provide.  Contact Halley today at (949) 519-4955 for a free and confidential consultation today.  No concern is too small.

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