Treatment versus Jail in Ventura County
Understanding the Distinctions of Cases Decided in Mental Health Courts
Traditional, punitive sentences have historically shown to be ineffectual in the rehabilitation of criminal offenders struggling with serious mental health conditions. Defendants who have been ruled mentally insane or otherwise incapable of a standard trial can instead have their cases adjudicated in mental health courts. The process in which mental health court cases are heard and litigated differ substantially from other criminal trials you may be more familiar with. Persons struggling with mental illness may in fact require a far more robust and tailored type of legal defense.
A significant difference to mental health courts is sentencing will likely involve an emphasis on treatment over prison time. Our attorneys at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP have handled numerous cases involving the negotiation of a treatment plan in lieu of incarceration. We can assess the facts of your case, determine your potential eligibility for mental health court, and pursue all forms of judicial relief that may be available to you.
How We Argue for Treatment over Jailtime
In a typical criminal defense scenario, legal counsel will generally have their client plead “not guilty” and vigorously argue their innocence based on the facts and substance of the case. Should they still receive an unfavorable verdict, sentencing typically involves some combination of jailtime, fines, and community service, the scope of which is determined by the severity of the offense and any limitations codified by local statutes. In many cases, minimum sentencing requirements make some level of prison time unavoidable.
This can lead to the unfortunate scenario where an individual battling mental illness is incarcerated, exacerbating their condition and preventing any meaningful recovery or rehabilitation. The U.S. justice system has long fallen short of its obligations to those suffering from mental health conditions, but more means of receiving fair and just treatment are now available.
In order to avoid the possibility of jailtime and instead champion rehabilitation treatment, we can petition that an eligible person is tried in mental health court. This will require the defendant taking part in a sanity hearing, which, if successful, will lead to a modified trial.
A trial in mental health court will focus on demonstrating that the defendant’s mental illness is the primary cause of the criminal offense being adjudicated. Therefore, treating the mental health condition will more effectively rehabilitate the defendant and prevent future offenses, benefitting both them and the community. Unlike a traditional criminal defense trial, defending counsel is unlikely to pursue a “not guilty” plea.
We strongly believe prison is not the answer for individuals with severe mental illnesses. Treatment over punishment tends to produce the best results in the short- and long-term. In cases heard in mental health court, our legal team works to negotiate sentences that involves our client being sent to an approved mental health care facility to receive supervised treatment over punitive incarceration.
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No Jail Time