Mental health courts in Arizona are expanding but not all defendants are eligible to use them. Defendants charged with the most serious crimes are typically not dealt with by mental health courts.
Mental health courts are a diversionary program intended to give offenders an alternative to prison. More jurisdictions on Arizona have set up mental health courts in recent years.
Mental health courts often help offenders charged with felonies. A report in the Arizona Sun about a court in Flagstaff noted there were 28 participants in the program representing 53 separate cases.
Most of those taking part were charged with felonies. Crimes dealt with by the courts included aggravated assault, trafficking in stolen property, disorderly conduct with a weapon, domestic violence, aggravated DUI, possession of marijuana or methamphetamine, and arson.
Pima County also has mental health courts. The county’s website states defendants determined to be seriously mentally ill (SMI) by the Regional Behavioral Health Authority are eligible.
However, defendants charged with murder, sexual assault, child molestation, and some domestic violence crimes cannot enter the diversion program.
In Pima County, defendants must have charges that are eligible for probation to apply for the mental health court. Defendants are transferred to the court and sentenced by a presiding mental health court judge.
The court sets conditions for the defendant and provides a team of support professionals to help and monitor his or her progress.
The court holds regular compliance hearings to monitor the defendant’s progress.
In 2018, Pima County’s Attorney’s Office launched a misdemeanor problem-solving court. The new service provides mental health and substance use treatment, along with a range of other services, for high-risk or high-need defendants, many of them with mental illnesses.
The service was launched with nearly $3 million in federal grant money awarded to the Pima County Attorney’s Office, reported Tuscon.com.
Mental health courts play an important role in diverting offenders with certain mental disorders away from the prison system. If you or a family member believe you may be eligible, please contact our criminal defense team today at (602) 340-1999.