If you’ve been arrested for any crime in California, there is a law that could dramatically impact your case. I’ve been a California criminal defense lawyer for over two decades, and I’ve never seen anything that has this much potential to impact anyone charged with a crime.
On June 27, 2018 California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 1810, which went into effect immediately. (This bill created new California Penal Code section 1001.36.)
Penal Code 1001.36 allows ANY defendant charged with ANY misdemeanor or felony the chance to earn a dismissal of their case if they meet certain requirements.
To be eligible, the accused must suffer from a “mental disorder” listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, otherwise known as the “DSM”. (The current DSM is the DSM-5).
But what is essential to understand is that alcoholism, drug addiction, PTSD, ADHD, anxiety disorder, and many others ARE listed in the DSM as treatable mental disorders!
As a criminal defense attorney, my experience has been that people that are arrested for crime suffer from one of two problems:
- A “bad luck” problem, like being in the wrong place at the wrong time, OR
- An alcohol problem, drug problem or other mental health problem that has contributed to the criminal charges.
California Penal Code section 1001.36 means that if a criminal defendant is alcoholic or addicted to drugs (or suffers from some other related mental health issue) and commits a crime related to their mental health issue, they have the chance to participate in either an outpatient or a residential treatment program and earn a dismissal of the charges against them.
There is much that is currently unsettled in how this law will operate, but the potential impact on criminal defendants, and the family of anyone accused of a crime, is enormous.
What is Diversion?
Diversion is an opportunity for someone accused of a crime to earn a dismissal of the charges against them. To understand how diversion operates, you must first recognize that in the criminal justice system, a criminal conviction only happens where there is both:
- A guilty plea or verdict, AND
- The person is sentenced.
If someone pleads guilty to a crime, but is never sentenced, there is NO criminal conviction.
In a case where the criminal defendant is allowed to do diversion, they enter a guilty plea to the charges, but they are NOT sentenced.
Instead of being sentenced, the judge will order them to participate in a specific program, and if they successfully complete that program, the charges against them are dismissed. After completion of the diversion program under this new law, the arrest upon which the diversion was based shall be deemed to never have occurred!
Requirements Under the New Law
California Penal Code section 1001.36 will apply to both misdemeanors and felonies. As with any law, there are certain legal requirements that must be met to get this diversion opportunity. The legal requirements are:
- A mental disorder. Again, the DSM provides that alcoholism and drug addiction are treatable mental disorders. But the list is much broader than that, and includes such things as anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, ADHD or ADD, PTSD, and more.
- The mental disorder played a significant role in the commission of the charged offense.
- A qualified mental health expert (a psychiatrist or psychologist) offers an expert opinion that the defendant’s symptoms motivating the criminal behavior would respond to mental health treatment.
- The defendant agrees to treatment as a condition of diversion, and the judge is satisfied that the recommended inpatient or outpatient program of mental health treatment will meet the specialized mental health treatment needs of the defendant.
- The defendant agrees to give up his or her right to a speedy, public trial.
- The defendant is NOT eligible for diversion if the court finds that the defendant poses an unreasonable danger to the public if diversion is granted.
The maximum length of the diversion program is two years, and there will be regular reports to the court of the defendant’s participation in treatment.
Because this law is so new, there is much that is unknown. There is no question that this new law will be controversial. But as someone who has been involved in the justice system for a long time, and who knows intimately about the problems of drug addiction and alcoholism that often drive criminal cases, I can say that I’m inspired that the legislature is taking on this kind of criminal reform.
If you believe that you can benefit from this new law, I invite you to call us for a consultation with a lawyer right away.
California Penal Code Section 1001.36
For those who love “legal blah blah,” here is the actual language of Penal Code section 1001.36 that allows for diversion for all eligible criminal cases:
(a) On an accusatory pleading alleging the commission of a misdemeanor or felony offense, the court may, after considering the positions of the defense and prosecution, grant pretrial diversion to a defendant pursuant to this section if the defendant meets all of the requirements specified in subdivision (b).
(b) Pretrial diversion may be granted pursuant to this section if all of the following criteria are met:
(1) The court is satisfied that the defendant suffers from a mental disorder as identified in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, including, but not limited to, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, but excluding antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and pedophilia. Evidence of the defendant’s mental disorder shall be provided by the defense and shall include a recent diagnosis by a qualified mental health expert. In opining that a defendant suffers from a qualifying disorder, the qualified mental health expert may rely on an examination of the defendant, the defendant’s medical records, arrest reports, or any other relevant evidence.
(2) The court is satisfied that the defendant’s mental disorder played a significant role in the commission of the charged offense. A court may conclude that a defendant’s mental disorder played a significant role in the commission of the charged offense if, after reviewing any relevant and credible evidence, including, but not limited to, police reports, preliminary hearing transcripts, witness statements, statements by the defendant’s mental health treatment provider, medical records, records or reports by qualified medical experts, or evidence that the defendant displayed symptoms consistent with the relevant mental disorder at or near the time of the offense, the court concludes that the defendant’s mental disorder substantially contributed to the defendant’s involvement in the commission of the offense.
(3) In the opinion of a qualified mental health expert, the defendant’s symptoms motivating the criminal behavior would respond to mental health treatment.
(4) The defendant consents to diversion and waives his or her right to a speedy trial, unless a defendant has been found to be an appropriate candidate for diversion in lieu of commitment pursuant to clause (iv) of subparagraph (B) paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 1370 and, as a result of his or her mental incompetence, cannot consent to diversion or give a knowing and intelligent waiver of his or her right to a speedy trial.
(5) The defendant agrees to comply with treatment as a condition of diversion.
(6) The court is satisfied that the defendant will not pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety, as defined in Section 1170.18, if treated in the community. The court may consider the opinions of the district attorney, the defense, or a qualified mental health expert, and may consider the defendant’s violence and criminal history, the current charged offense, and any other factors that the court deems appropriate.
(c) As used in this chapter, “pretrial diversion” means the postponement of prosecution, either temporarily or permanently, at any point in the judicial process from the point at which the accused is charged until adjudication, to allow the defendant to undergo mental health treatment, subject to all of the following:
(1) (A) The court is satisfied that the recommended inpatient or outpatient program of mental health treatment will meet the specialized mental health treatment needs of the defendant.
(B) The defendant may be referred to a program of mental health treatment utilizing existing inpatient or outpatient mental health resources. Before approving a proposed treatment program, the court shall consider the request of the defense, the request of the prosecution, the needs of the defendant, and the interests of the community. The treatment may be procured using private or public funds, and a referral may be made to a county mental health agency, existing collaborative courts, or assisted outpatient treatment only if that entity has agreed to accept responsibility for the treatment of the defendant, and mental health services are provided only to the extent that resources are available and the defendant is eligible for those services.
(2) The provider of the mental health treatment program in which the defendant has been placed shall provide regular reports to the court, the defense, and the prosecutor on the defendant’s progress in treatment.
(3) The period during which criminal proceedings against the defendant may be diverted shall be no longer than two years.
(d) If any of the following circumstances exists, the court shall, after notice to the defendant, defense counsel, and the prosecution, hold a hearing to determine whether the criminal proceedings should be reinstated, whether the treatment should be modified, or whether the defendant should be conserved and referred to the conservatorship investigator of the county of commitment to initiate conservatorship proceedings for the defendant pursuant to Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 5350) of Part 1 of Division 5 of the Welfare and Institutions Code:
(1) The defendant is charged with an additional misdemeanor allegedly committed during the pretrial diversion and that reflects the defendant’s propensity for violence.
(2) The defendant is charged with an additional felony allegedly committed during the pretrial diversion.
(3) The defendant is engaged in criminal conduct rendering him or her unsuitable for diversion.
(4) Based on the opinion of a qualified mental health expert whom the court may deem appropriate, either of the following circumstances exists:
(A) The defendant is performing unsatisfactorily in the assigned program.
(B) The defendant is gravely disabled, as defined in subparagraph (B) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (h) of Section 5008 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. A defendant shall only be conserved and referred to the conservatorship investigator pursuant to this finding.
(e) If the defendant has performed satisfactorily in diversion, at the end of the period of diversion, the court shall dismiss the defendant’s criminal charges that were the subject of the criminal proceedings at the time of the initial diversion. A court may conclude that the defendant has performed satisfactorily if the defendant has substantially complied with the requirements of diversion, has avoided significant new violations of law unrelated to the defendant’s mental health condition, and has a plan in place for long-term mental health care. If the court dismisses the charges, the clerk of the court shall file a record with the Department of Justice indicating the disposition of the case diverted pursuant to this section. Upon successful completion of diversion, if the court dismisses the charges, the arrest upon which the diversion was based shall be deemed never to have occurred, and the court shall order access to the record of the arrest restricted in accordance with Section 1001.9, except as specified in subdivisions (g) and (h). The defendant who successfully completes diversion may indicate in response to any question concerning his or her prior criminal record that he or she was not arrested or diverted for the offense, except as specified in subdivision (g).
(f) A record pertaining to an arrest resulting in successful completion of diversion, or any record generated as a result of the defendant’s application for or participation in diversion, shall not, without the defendant’s consent, be used in any way that could result in the denial of any employment, benefit, license, or certificate.
(g) The defendant shall be advised that, regardless of his or her completion of diversion, both of the following apply:
(1) The arrest upon which the diversion was based may be disclosed by the Department of Justice to any peace officer application request and that, notwithstanding subdivision (f), this section does not relieve the defendant of the obligation to disclose the arrest in response to any direct question contained in any questionnaire or application for a position as a peace officer, as defined in Section 830.
(2) An order to seal records pertaining to an arrest made pursuant to this section has no effect on a criminal justice agency’s ability to access and use those sealed records and information regarding sealed arrests, as described in Section 851.92.
(h) A finding that the defendant suffers from a mental disorder, any progress reports concerning the defendant’s treatment, or any other records related to a mental disorder that were created as a result of participation in, or completion of, diversion pursuant to this section or for use at a hearing on the defendant’s eligibility for diversion under this section may not be used in any other proceeding without the defendant’s consent, unless that information is relevant evidence that is admissible under the standards described in paragraph (2) of subdivision (f) of Section 28 of Article I of the California Constitution. However, when determining whether to exercise its discretion to grant diversion under this section, a court may consider previous records of participation in diversion under this section.
(i) The county agency administering the diversion, the defendant’s mental health treatment providers, the public guardian or conservator, and the court shall, to the extent not prohibited by federal law, have access to the defendant’s medical and psychological records, including progress reports, during the defendant’s time in diversion, as needed, for the purpose of providing care and treatment and monitoring treatment for diversion or conservatorship.
(Added by Stats. 2018, Ch. 34, Sec. 24. (AB 1810) Effective June 27, 2018.)
The Actual Text of AB-1810
Here is the relevant portion of AB 1810 that gave rise to the new law:
“(15) Existing law authorizes a county to establish a pretrial diversion program for defendants who have been charged with a misdemeanor offense, with certain exceptions. Existing law also authorizes other diversion programs, including for defendants with cognitive developmental disabilities, defendants in nonviolent drug cases, defendants suffering from sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems as a result of their military service, and persons issued notices to appear for traffic violations, among others.
This bill would establish a procedure of diversion for defendants with mental disorders through which the court would be authorized to grant pretrial diversion, for a period no longer than 2 years, to a defendant suffering from a mental disorder, on an accusatory pleading alleging the commission of a misdemeanor or felony offense, in order to allow the defendant to undergo mental health treatment. The bill would condition eligibility on, among other criteria, a court finding that the defendant’s mental disorder played a significant role in the commission of the charged offense. The bill would authorize a referral for mental health treatment to be made to a county mental health agency, existing collaborative courts, or assisted outpatient treatment only if that entity has agreed to accept responsibility for the treatment of the defendant, as specified.
The bill would, among other things, require the court, after notice to the defendant, defense counsel, and the prosecution, to hold a hearing to determine whether the criminal proceedings should be reinstated, whether the treatment program should be modified, or whether the defendant should be conserved and referred to the conservatorship investigator, if the defendant is charged with, or is engaged in, certain criminal offenses, if the defendant is performing unsatisfactorily in diversion, or if the defendant is gravely disabled, as defined.
If the defendant has performed satisfactorily in diversion, the bill would require the court to dismiss the defendant’s criminal charges, with a record filed with the Department of Justice indicating the disposition of the case diverted, and the arrest deemed never to have occurred, and would require the court to order access to the record of the arrest restricted, except as specified.
By increasing the duties of local officials relating to diversion and the sealing of arrest records, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The bill would also authorize the State Department of State Hospitals, subject to appropriation by the Legislature, to solicit proposals from, and to contract with, a county to help fund the development or expansion of the above-described pretrial diversion for individuals with serious mental disorders who may otherwise be found incompetent to stand trial and committed to the department for restoration of competency. The bill would require participants to meet specified criteria, including, among others, that they suffer from certain mental disorders and have felony charges, and that there is a significant relationship between the serious mental disorders and the charged offense or between the individual’s conditions of homelessness and the charged offense.
The bill would set forth various requirements for a county submitting a proposal for funding, including, among others, demonstrating a specified match of county funds and reporting certain program data and outcomes to the department. The bill would require the department, when evaluating a proposal, to take certain factors into consideration, and in consultation with the Council on Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health, as specified. The bill would require that patient information and certain personal identifying information reported to the department be confidential and not open to public inspection.”
If you have any questions about this new law, please do not hesitate to call us.