A person facing criminal charges and also suffering from a mental illness is especially susceptible to inappropriate punishments or unfair treatment by the criminal justice system. Too often, the needs of the mentally ill are not recognized, leading to their incarceration in jails or prisons where they face dangerous environments and worsening symptoms.
If you or a loved one has a mental illness and have been charged with a crime, consult with a mental health lawyer in Pasadena immediately. A lawyer with an understanding of mental illness and related laws, with assistance from mental health experts, will offer a defense seeking treatment, not punishment, for your alleged criminal behavior.
Why You Need a Pasadena Mental Health Lawyer
It is always best to secure expert legal representation when facing criminal charges. When you face charges and have a mental illness that contributed to your alleged criminal behavior, you need a lawyer skilled in managing cases involving mental illness.
A Pasadena mental health lawyer not only has the expert legal skills needed to defend you but brings an understanding of the specific challenges those with mental illness encounter. A mental health lawyer also knows that treatment, not punishment, is what serves their clients and society best and will seek the most compassionate and constructive treatment options possible for their clients.
For a free legal consultation with a mental health lawyer serving Pasadena, call (310) 896-2723
Factors Affecting Your Defense
After reviewing your case and consulting with you, your Pasadena mental health attorney will determine the best approach to your defense and will represent you at your initial sanity hearing. This hearing is not for the prosecution to bring evidence against you or for your lawyer to argue against that evidence. This hearing determines your competency to stand trial and/or your mental state at the time of the alleged crime.
In California, competency is determined by a psychiatric evaluation. Your lawyer will arrange this evaluation. If the evaluation shows you do not understand the charges against you and cannot contribute to your defense, you will be found incompetent to stand trial.
If you are determined incompetent, the trial for the criminal charges will be postponed. You will be taken to a California mental health facility to undergo treatment. If you recover within three years, the trial will take place. If you do not, your Pasadena mental health lawyer will represent you at a hearing to determine what continuing care options are best for you.
Your Mental State at the Time of the Alleged Crime
If you were not legally sane when you allegedly perpetrated the criminal act for which you are charged, your lawyer may opt to use this factor in your defense. For example, you may have committed the act while experiencing a psychotic episode. If a psychiatric evaluation, arranged by your Pasadena mental health lawyer, confirms you were not legally sane at the time of the crime, your lawyer can mount a mental health defense.
Your competency to stand trial is separate from your legal sanity at the time of the crime. Even if you understand the charges you face and can assist in your defense, if you were legally insane when you committed the act, your lawyer can still argue a mental health defense. Conversely, you may have been sane at the time of the act but subsequently experienced a deterioration in your mental health, rendering you incompetent to stand trial.
Pasadena Mental Health Lawyer Near Me (310) 896-2723
How Your Mental Health Attorney in Pasadena Can Argue an Insanity Defense
To argue an insanity defense with success, your lawyer needs to show you were unaware of what you were doing while you committed the crime or show that though you were aware of your actions, you could not recognize those actions as wrong.
While all lawyers are legal experts, not all lawyers are experienced in recognizing the characteristics and symptoms of insanity, making it essential that you retain the services of a Pasadena mental health lawyer.
Your lawyer must provide evidence of your insanity at the time of the crime or as your constant condition. Though other characteristics apply, a person who is legally insane usually shows:
- A lack of concern for witnesses. The person will continue with the crime even if others are there to witness or intervene.
- A lack of concern for evidence. The person will not try to hide evidence or otherwise cover the crime.
- A lack of concern for arrest. The person will not attempt to avoid arrest.
- A lack of understanding. The person is not capable of recognizing their actions as wrong or is simply unaware of what they are doing.
Providing Evidence of Insanity
In criminal cases, offenders are presumed innocent, and the burden falls to the prosecutor to prove guilt.
When arguing an insanity defense, the burden to prove insanity falls to the defense, as all citizens are presumed sane until evidence proves otherwise. Your Pasadena mental health lawyer will provide this evidence through the testimony of psychologists and psychiatrists, criminal pathologists, or any other witness with relevant expertise.
A successful defense will bring a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGI) and instead of facing time in jail or prison, you will be transported to a California psychiatric facility for treatment and potential recovery and will not have a conviction for the offense added to your criminal record.
California’s Mental Health Diversion Program
Your Pasadena mental health lawyer will also be aware of California Penal Code §1001.36, which allows a diversion program for offenders who qualify. Under this code, offenders may have criminal charges dismissed upon completion of a treatment program.
Additionally, their criminal records will be sealed and therefore, will not negatively affect future educational or career opportunities. Only lawyers who know of and about the mental health diversion program can seek this option for their clients. Your Pasadena mental health lawyer will have a thorough knowledge of the program and qualifying requirements.
Complete a Free Case Evaluation form now
How a Pasadena Mental Health Lawyer Will Help You
Citizens who have mental illness and are facing criminal charges are, unfortunately, more vulnerable than other offenders to mistreatment by the criminal justice system. This treatment is not necessarily intentional. It can come from ignorance or lack of understanding of the struggles and needs of those with mental illness.
If you are facing criminal charges and a mental health condition, it is vital that you obtain legal representation from a lawyer with an expert understanding of the laws affecting you and the defenses and treatment options available to you.