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Mental Health Diversion in California Criminal Defense

Mental Health Diversion May be a Great Option to Resolve a Criminal Case

A potential client called me last week. She had two theft cases with one open and one closed. Her lawyer pled her guilty to a trespassing misdemeanor with the understanding that after completing a formal diversion program, the case could be dismissed. Client asked me if that was as good as Mental Health Diversion. Client was asking if I could get her Mental Health Diversion (MHD) on the new case or both of the cases. Client also said that her present lawyer told her MHD was only available post plea. Wrong!
It is simply awful when clients get bad legal advice. This is not to say that her lawyer didn’t do a decent job on the case, but I will say that he simply doesn’t know the law. This is unacceptable. Our job as defense lawyers is not only to know the law, but also to know the facts better than the judge or the prosecutor. This being said, Mental Health Diversion DOES NOT REQUIRE A GUILTY PLEA.

The difference between entering a guilty or no contest plea and not entering a plea can be devastating to some clients. The federal government does not recognize “diversion” as not sustaining a conviction. If you are an immigrant, if you seek a federal job or license, if you want to avoid a record of a conviction in the federal system, don’t plead guilty in state court. If you enter the guilty plea, the only left if you make a mistake is sentencing. If you informalize the case, there is still room for error. If client has a small lapse, they don’t have to be sentenced. Make sure your lawyer explores all options before pleading guilty. Those options may include, Mental Health Diversion, Military Diversion, infracting the case, going to trial, informalization and more.
Does your lawyer have the mental capacity and desire to get creative? If not, challenge him or her. Ask questions of your lawyer. Get involved in your case. To borrow from one of my favorite movies of all time: Help your lawyer, help you. When my clients show interest in their cases, I have more interest in their case. The more your lawyer knows about your case, the better he is able to help you achieve the results you want.

Not everyone is going to get diversion on every case. Not every case should go to trial. If you hire me, I cannot make all your problems simply go away. But what I can do is everything in my power to try and obtain the best settlement possible in your case. What I can do is talk to you about all of your options and find the best option for you. I will discuss your right to a trial with you, the costs of trial, the risks of trial.

If your lawyer is not discussing the potential of a trial with you, you should likely run. If your lawyer is simply talking to you about how a no contest plea is better than a guilty plea, run. If you lawyer is not explaining all of your options to you, run. But please, help your lawyer to help you. If your lawyer asks you to read a report, read it. If your lawyer asks you to watch a video, watch it. Be honest with your lawyer. Communicate with your lawyer. Go to court if your lawyer needs you there. Help your lawyer to gather necessary documents. Keep appointments to meet with your lawyer. In short, help your lawyer help you. It is truly one of the best ways to guarantee the best results.

If you have questions about your criminal case, call a lawyer who knows the difference between Mental Health Diversion and post-plea diversion. Call me:
Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340 or

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