California criminal courts now act as mental health courts as the result of the passage of SB 8, which became effective in June 2018. In passing SB 8, California voters implemented the provisions of California Penal Code § 1001.36 which created California’s “Mental Health Diversion” program. This allows those criminal defendants that qualify to receive mental health treatment when charged with a crime. Penal Code 1001.36 PC is a form of “pretrial diversion” in California. This type of diversion typically lasts a maximum of two (2) years and may consist of inpatient or outpatient treatment.
“Pretrial diversion” allows a criminal defendant the option of postponing further action in their cases to participate in a treatment program. Defendants may request to participate in diversion at any stage or point in a criminal case before sentencing.
At the end of the diversion period, the court will dismiss the charge(s) if the defendant successfully completes the treatment program, Defendants are considered to have successfully completed a program when they have:
- substantially complied with the diversion program’s requirements;
- avoided new violations of law unrelated to their mental condition; and
- established a plan for long-term mental health care.
The consequences of failing to complete this pretrial diversion program are significant. If diversion was not successfully completed, the State of California will reinstate the criminal charges and proceedings against the defendant. The defendant may still present any applicable criminal defenses to the charges.
The mental health providers of a diversion treatment program provide regular progress reports to the court, prosecutor, and defense. If certain events occur, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether:
- the treatment program should be modified;
- criminal proceedings against the defendant should be reinstated; or
- The defendant should be referred for a county investigation related to conservatorship proceedings.
A court will notify the defendant, prosecutor, and defense before conducting this hearing. Any interruption of the diversion program because of certain triggering events and their ensuing hearings may extend the time it takes for a participating defendant to complete the program.
If you are experiencing mental health issues that have caused you to be charged with a crime, the resolution of your matter through the California PC 1001.36 diversion program may be available as an option. John Patrick Dolan is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law, the highest achievement awarded by the State Bar of California to attorneys in the field of criminal law. Call today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.