In recent years, both police and the courts have been paying more attention to the mental health status of suspects with whom they come into contact. Under California Penal Code 1001.36 PC, recently enacted in June of 2018, a qualifying defendant can undergo mental health treatment after they’ve been charged with a crime and, upon successful completion of the treatment program, have their charges dismissed.
Known as California’s Mental Health Diversion Program, PC 1001.36 is part of a broader pretrial diversion system designed to allow defendants in certain situations seek treatment before their trial continues. Treatment can be requested at any point in the defendant’s criminal case before they are sentenced.
A person’s mental health status isn’t the only qualifier that can render them eligible for one of California’s diversion programs. Penal Code 1000 PC describes California’s Pretrial Drug Diversion Program that defendants who are being charged with some non-violent drug crimes involving simple possession to undergo drug treatment.
If they successfully complete their treatment, the charges will be dismissed. There’s even a “bad check” diversion program, where a defendant who is convicted of writing bad checks can request an alternative sentencing program that will allow them to pay restitution toward the victim and, at their own expense, attend an intervention program.
Not every defendant will qualify for one of California’s Diversion Programs. Under Penal Code 1001.36 PC, both misdemeanor and felony defendants can qualify for a mental health intervention if:
- The defendant suffers from a mental condition other than pedophilia, borderline personality disorder, or antisocial personality disorder
- The defendant’s mental disorder played a significant role in the commission of the crime
- A qualified mental health expert believes the defendant would respond to treatment
- The defendant consents to diversion and waves their right to a speedy trial
- The defendant agrees to comply with the treatment as a condition of diversion
- The court is satisfied that the defendant will not pose an unreasonable risk of danger to the community
When a defendant undergoes mental health treatment as part of the diversion program, the treatment can last up to two years and can consist of in-patient and/or out-patient therapy. If the defendant successfully completes the treatment, the court will dismiss the charges against them at the end of the treatment period. If the defendant does not successfully complete treatment, they aren’t sent to jail. Instead, the criminal proceedings in the defendant’s case are resumed and will continue to move toward trial.