What is the Utah Mental Health Court?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

Criminal courts in Utah do more than sentence guilty defendants. Problem-solving courts have been developed to handle very specific kinds of defendants facing unique problems, including mental health issues.

Utah’s Mental Health Court is designed to help defendants with mental health problems. Defendants admitted into the Mental Health Court program must comply with certain sentencing requirements while also receiving treatment for psychological disorders and other mental health conditions. The program is designed for people whose criminal activities stem from untreated mental illness. The exact criteria and qualifying offenses may vary between counties, but the program tends to be available for those with severe mental health concerns who have committed crimes other than sex offenses or extreme violence. Those who complete the Mental Health Court program get treatment while avoiding jail time.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges stemming from mental illness, our Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyers can help you get into the Mental Health Court program. For a free initial case evaluation, call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287.

Purpose of Utah Mental Health Court

Utah’s Mental Health Court aims to identify defendants who commit crimes because of mental illness and get them treatment while also handling their criminal charges. People admitted to the Mental Health Court program are not simply absolved of their charges. However, rather than simply sentencing these defendants to jail or prison time, this program requires them to receive mental health treatment while abiding by the program’s other rules. The idea is to alleviate prison overcrowding while also helping those struggling with mental health to avoid recidivism and lead a crime-free life.

Mental illness is a significant factor in many criminal cases. Defendants with serious mental health conditions often commit crimes because they are not being treated for their condition or have stopped treatment. In many cases, defendants have never received treatment because they are unaware of their mental illness. If left untreated and sent through the ordinary court system, these offenders will likely commit crimes in the future while their mental health deteriorates.

If you have a loved one you believe is facing criminal charges because of a mental health issue, our Park City criminal defense attorneys can help you determine if Mental Health Court would be a good fit.

Offenses That Qualify for Mental Health Court in Utah

To be admitted to the Mental Health Court program, you must meet the eligibility criteria set by your county. Each court is administered by the county where it is located, and each county may develop its own criteria. Generally, Mental Health Courts will consider psychological and legal factors before admitting a defendant into the program. Our Odgen criminal defense lawyers can help you reach out to the Mental Health Court in your county to determine the exact requirements you must fulfill.

Psychological Criteria

Relatively minor mental health concerns typically do not qualify a defendant for Mental Health Court. In addition, your mental health issues must be a significant driving factor behind the alleged criminal activity. Simply having a mental health issue while also facing criminal charges does not automatically make you eligible.

Generally, courts are looking for defendants with severe, persistent mental health concerns. Many courts require that defendants have a serious Axis I disorder as their primary diagnosis, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorder. Depending on your county, the Mental Health Court might exclude defendants without an Axis I disorder as their primary diagnosis or those with certain diagnoses, like depression or PTSD. Alternatively, the court might consider all defendants but favor those with specific disorders.

If you or someone you know wants to be considered for Mental Health Court, our Murray criminal defense attorneys can help you seek a diagnosis from a mental health professional to figure out if you are eligible.

Legal Criteria

The court will also consider the nature of your criminal charges when deciding whether to admit you to a Mental Health Court program. Again, each county may establish its own list of criteria, including offenses that are or are not eligible. For the most part, sexual offenses and offenses involving extreme violence are not eligible for Mental Health Court. For example, if a defendant violently beat or sexually assaulted another person because of an untreated mental illness, they would likely not be eligible for Mental Health Court.

Charges including Class A misdemeanors and various felonies are often admitted to Mental Health Courts. Lesser misdemeanor offenses are less likely to be admitted due to their less severe penalties. Overall, numerous elements of your criminal charges, including the nature of the offense, your motivation, and your criminal history, are considered.

Ultimately, prosecutors are in charge of referring people to the Mental Health Court program and will determine if a defendant should not be admitted based on their charges. If the prosecutor is on the fence about your case, we might be able to persuade them to refer you to the program because you are likely to respond well to treatment.

How Mental Health Court in Utah Works

Referral to the Mental Health Court program happens in two steps. First, a prosecutor will review the defendant’s mental health status and criminal charges and decide whether they should be referred to the program. If referred, the second step requires the defendant to be screened by a therapist. If the therapist confirms your mental status meets the eligibility criteria set by the court, you may be admitted to the program.

Once in the program, you are assigned a case manager in addition to a therapist and medical doctor. Participants are monitored weekly by both the court and the mental health facility overseeing their treatment. Participants are also put on treatment plans that they must comply with or face expulsion from the program. Our Orem criminal defense lawyers can help you get into the Mental Health Court Program and stay on track to complete the program successfully.

Many treatment programs are designed to last for about a year, although your specific treatment might differ. The duration of your program may be adjusted based on how well defendants respond to treatment and whether they break any program rules.

Contact Our Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys About Mental Health Court

If you are facing criminal charges and suffer from a serious mental health condition or disorder, you might be a good candidate for Utah’s Mental Health Court. Our St. George criminal defense attorneys can help you try to get into the program. For a free case review, call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287.