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Mental Health Diversion

I recently posted a blog about pre-trial diversion in low level drug offenses. If you haven’t read it, you should read that short blog before you start this one as it will give you some good background on diversion and deferred entry of judgment. Another great diversion program recently became available in California courts. Pre-trial diversion is now an option for people suffering from documented mental illness who are charged with certain crimes. The crimes must be non-strikes and can be either felonies or misdemeanors. Felony DUI’s are excluded from the program as are many sex offenses and some vehicular homicides.

The new diversion is discretionary with the judge. After hearing from both the defense and the prosecution the judge gets to make the call as to whether the defendant is an appropriate candidate for a mental health treatment program that can go on for a maximum of two years. The court needs to make certain findings in order to grant mental health diversion. The court must be satisfied that the defendant, in fact, suffers from a documented mental disorder. They must also find that the defendant’s mental health played a “significant role” in the commission of the charged offense. Finally, the court must be satisfied that the defendant will benefit from mental health treatment.

If all are found and the judge agrees, the defendant can waive his right to a speedy trial and consent to mental health diversion. The defense would then arrange for mental health treatment consisting of inpatient or outpatient treatment which is subject to approval by the court.

If the defendant does not perform well on diversion, the court could reinstitute criminal charges. If the defendant does perform well on diversion, the case will be dismissed, with no guilty plea and no conviction after a diversionary period of not more than two years.

This is a fabulous new tool for defense attorneys. Now, it is true that managing mental health diversion cases may take time and require a long term commitment from your defense lawyer. But, if you lawyer is unwilling to make such a commitment, you may not have the right lawyer!

If you have questions about mental health diversion, about hiring a criminal defense attorney, or if you want a free case evaluation, call me, attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340 or email me at:

I look forward to meeting you.

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