Those who are incompetent to stand trial or ISTs are at the center of controversy in California following the signing Assembly Bill 1810. The new law, signed by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this summer dramatically changes the criminal justice system in California, it allows judges to order community mental health treatment instead of prosecution for certain people accused, The Los Angeles Times reports. Opponents of the legislation contend that violent criminals who claim to suffer from mental illness will go free.
AB 1810, or the mental health diversion law, is one of several criminal justice reforms in California that are part of an effort to – among other things – reduce the state’s jail and prison population. Other notable bills along the same vein include AB 109, Propositions 47, and Prop 57. At the heart of AB 1810 is expanding diversion of mentally ill defendants from the criminal justice system; and, to help IST become competent to stand trial in the future.
An Op-Ed from The Times Editorial Board points out that those deemed incompetent to stand trial are supposed to be remanded to one of a small number of California state hospitals; once there, such individuals will undergo treatment until they are determined mentally fit to stand trial. The article states that most people get better in treatment, and eventually have their day in court.
Mental Health Diversion Law
Since there is a limited number of hospitals equipped to take in those charged with a crime, what has historically happened is such ISTs are housed in local detention centers. The lack of beds available in hospitals almost guarantees the above trajectory; and, when ISTs are jailed their mental state typically worsens. The goal of AB 1810 is helping people who have a history of mental illness receive treatment; but, those opposing the measure say that judges may end up giving murderers and rapist a pass—ruling in favor of treatment over jail.
Defendants who can prove a history of mental illness can request that judges suspend criminal proceedings and divert them to mental health treatment, provided however that a defendant can show he or she isn’t a risk to the public, according to the editorial. The length of treatment can go on for two years. After the treatment comes to an end, the presiding judge can decide to prosecute or dismiss the charge altogether. The argument over the bill has at least two-facets, will this legislation put the public at risk and who should hold power to decide how such cases are handled—prosecutors or judges.
Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney
The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can advocate for you or a loved one facing criminal charges in California. Attorney Brower brings more than 30 years of legal expertise, experience, and understanding of the law to the table and can help secure the best possible outcome for your case. Please contact our office today to learn more.