Can I Get My Case Transferred to Mental Health Court?

Florida mental health courts strive to provide options to individuals with mental health issues. Professionals recognize that people with these issues need treatment and assistance rather than punishment. Currently, Florida has 35 such courts.

If you’re curious about the role of these courts in the judicial system and whether they’re a viable option for your case, we can help. Call Metcalf Falls Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A. at 813-258-4800 for a free consultation.

What Is Mental Health Court in Florida?

Florida’s mental health courts provide personalized solutions to individuals with mental issues in the criminal justice system. The program aims to provide a rehabilitative, therapeutic approach to those who qualify. Helping individuals get the help they need, rather than focusing simply on incarceration, can drive down recidivism rates and improve participants’ quality of life.

Benefits of Mental Health Court Programs

Mental health courts benefit everyone. That includes the individuals who participate and the taxpayers funding the judicial system. Participants get the treatment they need for their mental health issues. Their treatment can address the root cause of their criminal behavior. Recidivism rates for those who attend mental health court are lower than those who go through the traditional system.

Participants are closely supervised to ensure compliance with the program and appropriate progress. They also get access to long-term care and treatment resources, helping them continue their progress once they are out of the court system. The Florida Courts note that mental health court is a less expensive option than traditional approaches.

Who Is Eligible for Mental Health Court?

A defendant must have a persistent and severe mental illness to qualify for mental health court. Qualifying diagnoses include mood disorders, schizophrenia, other psychotic disorders, and bipolar disorder. The diagnosis must also be related to the offense. This program is voluntary. That means the defendant must be willing to cooperate with the terms of the program and participate in mental health treatment.

What Charges Are Eligible for Mental Health Court?

Florida’s mental health court system accepts those with certain misdemeanors, criminal traffic offenses, and some third-degree felonies. However, the type of charges may determine how you enter the program. For example, the program in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit has a Health Care Court, a Misdemeanor Comprehensive Treatment Court, and Felony Comprehensive Treatment Court. The Health Care Court only accepts felonies as a condition of probation or Pretrial Intervention.

Getting Your Case to Mental Health Court

In many situations, the mental health court system will flag appropriate cases and refer them for consideration. The defendant’s lawyer will be contacted directly. Attorneys can also request consideration for the program on their client’s behalf. At that point, the screening process will begin.

Mental Health Court Screening Process

The screening process is designed to weed out ineligible defendants and ensure that those receiving services will likely benefit from them. A qualified psychiatrist will conduct an evaluation. If that evaluation finds that the defendant has a mental illness that likely caused their criminal conduct and that the defendant is open to treatment, the individual may be recommended for mental health court. The court must also find that the defendant’s charges qualify them for this program.

What Happens If Your Case Is Accepted?

Once a defendant is accepted into the mental health court program, they will work with mental health professionals to develop a supervision plan. The plan must cover treatment, conditions of the program, and court hearings. If the individual’s place in the mental health court program is part of their probation, it may also include the conditions of probation.

If the individual successfully completes the program without violating its conditions, their charges will be dismissed. This is partially affected by how you enter the program. For example, in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, the final outcome of a defendant’s charges is generally dictated by their intervention contract. If a defendant enters mental health court as part of probation, their charges may not be dismissed, but they may be referred for early termination of probation. A lot depends on the circumstances of your case, which is why it’s essential to work closely with a criminal defense lawyer.

Many things could happen if a defendant violates their contract. If a defendant violates their probation, their probation requirements determine what happens next. The court may attempt to address non-compliance through supportive intervention or jail time. If the court determines that the defendant can no longer participate in the program, their charges will be returned to the court that initially had jurisdiction over them.

Find Out if Mental Health Court is the Best Option for You—Contact Us Today

If you are facing criminal charges, you may be interested in the opportunities offered by the mental health court’s system. Let’s talk about your options and next steps during a free consultation. Call Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys P.A. at 813-258-4800 or reach out online now.