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Am I Eligible for Mental Health Court?

Posted on March 31, 2018 in criminal defense

Throughout Washington, many local municipalities have a mental health court for those charged with various crimes. This court specifically handles cases for defendants who have a mental illness. It is a voluntary diversion from the traditional criminal justice system and connects individuals with community-based treatment and support. If you can utilize this option and choose to, then you, your lawyer, the prosecution, and the judge will work with a mental health professional to improve the outcome of your case.

If you have been charged with a crime in Washington state, but your legal trouble stems from a mental illness, contact a Tacoma criminal defense lawyer at The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC as soon as possible. We understand that there are times when you need help, not jail time or other harsh repercussions. A criminal punishment will not improve your life or society. Ensuring you receive the treatment you need does. Call us at (253) 375-8055 to schedule a consultation.

Eligibility for Mental Health Court

Eligibility for mental health court depends on the county in which you are charged with a crime. You need to speak with a defense lawyer who understands the relevant counties eligibility criteria and referral process.

The basic criteria for the Pierce County felony mental health court, include

  • You have been diagnosed with a persistent major mental illness;
  • You demonstrate that you are likely to benefit from treatment;
  • You are competent;
  • You have been charged with a felony that did not involve a gun, sex offense, or result in substantial or great bodily harm;
  • There is a connection between your charge and mental health; and
  • You are a Piece County resident.

Similarly, in King County, you may be referred to the regional mental health court if:

  • You have been diagnosed with a major disorder, which is ongoing and significantly impacts your ability to function;
  • Appropriate services are available in the community;
  • You are open to supervision and treatment;
  • There is a connection between your mental health systems and the circumstances or behavior that led to your being involved with the criminal justice system; and
  • The charges are being prosecuted by King County or a municipality within the county.

Whether or not you have an eligible mental disorder is based on a licensed mental health professional’s assessment. You cannot simply claim to have a mental illness. Also, relying on a past diagnosis may not be sufficient. You must establish that you currently suffer from a serious and ongoing disorder.

You Must Obtain a Referral

Before going through the mental health court, you must obtain a referral to do so. Who may refer you to the mental health court also depends on the county. In some circumstances, anyone can raise the recommendation, including your attorney. However, in other situations, only the prosecution may bring this recommendation. If you are interested in seeking mental health treatment in response to being charged with a crime, talk with your lawyer about whether you may be eligible for the mental health court and how to obtain a recommendation.

What to Expect

If you go through the mental health court, expect to be under court supervision for an extensive period. You will not only have to abide by terms of probation, you must also adhere to the treatment plan created by a licensed mental health professional. You will have to attend periodic court hearings to apprise the judge of your adherence to the program and improvement.

Mental health court will not be an easier process than the traditional justice system. Sticking to a treatment plan can be difficult. However, it will be much more beneficial to you than common criminal penalties, such as fines, imprisonment, and probation. Despite the challenges you face, you may be able to finish the process with an established place within the community and a greater ability to pursue the education and career you desire.

Discuss Your Options With a Lawyer

If you have been charged with a crime, whether it is a misdemeanor or felony, and you know that your mental condition was a central factor in your behavior, you need to contact a defense attorney who has experience with Washington’s mental health courts. You need a lawyer who will advise you on this opportunity, including on whether it is an opportunity and what you should expect if you are able to transfer your case to this court. If you are eligible, we will help you seek this diversion program, enabling you to receive treatment instead of facing incarceration.

To learn more about your local mental health court, call The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC at (253) 375-8055 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.