Benefits of Mental Health Diversion in California

Understanding Penal Code 1001.36 and the Benefits of Pretrial Diversion

In California, individuals charged with certain crimes that have a qualifying mental health disorder may be eligible for pretrial diversion pursuant to Penal Code 1001.36. The biggest benefit to successfully completing a mental health diversion through a California court is that your charges may get dismissed. According to the language of the Penal Code:

“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.”

Additionally, if the criminal charges are dismissed due to successful completion of the pretrial diversion program, the “arrest upon which the diversion was based shall be deemed never to have occurred.”

A court may find that an offender has performed satisfactorily in diversion 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

In order to qualify for a mental health diversion program a court must find that the defendant suffers from a mental disorder identified in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Defendants suffering from antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and pedophilia do not qualify for pretrial diversion under Penal Code Section 1001.36. The court must also find that the mental disorder was a significant factor in the commission of the charged offense. Mental health diversion requires a defendant to complete inpatient or outpatient treatment at the discretion of the court. Finally, the court must be satisfied that the defendant does not pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.

Pretrial diversion, such as programs designed to treat mental health disorders, have helped numerous defendants get the help they need to successfully reenter the community.