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What Is California’s Mental Health Diversion Program?

April 30, 2020

You may be eligible to have your criminal charges dismissed if you meet the criteria.

What Is California’s Mental Health Diversion Program?

As a country, we are coming to a better understanding of how mental health issues may impact many areas of our lives. The California criminal justice system is also coming to this same realization. As a result, in some cases, people with mental health issues may be able to participate in a treatment program and potentially have their criminal charges dismissed, thanks to a relatively new law.

Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) came into effect on June 27, 2018. As a criminal defense attorney in San Bernardino, CA can explain, this law allows individuals with mental health disorders to engage in treatment as part of a diversion program. If they successfully complete treatment and comply with the terms put in place by the judge, their criminal charges will be dismissed.

Mental health diversion is one of many types of diversion programs available in California. Other diversion programs exist for veterans with mental health issues and for people with substance abuse issues. Participating in a diversion program has many advantages, including getting help, having the charges against you dismissed, and having the arrest record sealed.

People charged with both felony and misdemeanor crimes may be eligible for the mental health diversion program. However, to qualify, an individual must meet other criteria. This includes:

  • The individual suffers from a mental health condition other than antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or pedophilia;
  • The mental health condition played a significant role in the charged offense;
  • The individual would respond to mental health treatment, according to a qualified mental health expert;
  • The individual consents to the program and waives their right to a speedy trial;
  • The individual agrees to comply with treatment; and
  • The court is satisfied that the individual will not pose an unreasonable risk to public safety.

People with most mental health conditions are eligible for this program, including schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The existence of the condition can be documented through evidence of a recent diagnosis by a qualified mental health expert.

According to a criminal defense attorney in San Bernardino, CA, one important aspect of eligibility for this program is demonstrating that the mental health condition played a significant role in the crime itself. For example, if a person was charged with a minor drug offense and has been diagnosed with PTSD, their treating provider may testify that they were self-medicating their condition with drugs.

If you do enter into the mental health diversion program, you must complete treatment within 2 years. If you do, then the charges against you will be dismissed. However, if you fail to complete the program, then the criminal charges against you will be reinstated and your case will proceed.

Mental health diversion programs are just one option to resolve a California criminal case. If you have been charged with a crime, the Chambers Law Firm can help you determine the best way to resolve your case, which may include participating in a diversion program. To learn more about how we can help or to schedule a free initial consultation with a criminal defense attorney in San Bernardino, CA, contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com.

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