If you or a loved one have been arrested in Hillsborough County and have mental health issues, you may be eligible to have the case transferred to Mental Health Court rather than staying in standard court. Pursuant to Hillsborough County Administrative Order S-2017-036, a mental health court has been established in Hillsborough County to keep jails from becoming repositories for the mentally ill.
Mental Health Division “M” – is established as the specialized subdivision in the Circuit Criminal Division monitoring (a) eligible defendants who are identified as having a mental illness for voluntary admission into a mental health pre-trial intervention program; (b) eligible defendants found incompetent to proceed, and (c) all defendants adjudged not guilty by reason of insanity.
Is There a Mental Health Pre-Trial Intervention Program?
Eligible defendants who are identified as having a mental illness may be placed in the Mental Health Pre-Trial Intervention Program in accordance with an agreement between the defendant and the State Attorney’s Office.
Can a Defendant Be Found Incompetent to Proceed?
A presiding judge of a standard division may transfer to Division “M” any defendant charged with a third-degree felony not involving a firearm who is found to be incompetent to proceed.
Why Did Hillsborough County Expand Eligibility for Mental Health Court Cases?
The goal of the Mental Health Court is to prevent local jails from becoming holding cells for people with mental illnesses. Mentally ill defendants will receive the evaluation and treatment they need to get better and stay out of jail. This means treatment, not incarceration.
People with serious mental illness often cycle in and out of the criminal justice system. The Mental Health Court is an avenue to keep non-violent, mentally ill individuals in the community with appropriate services and support. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to have your case transferred to Mental Health Court which can keep you from going to jail and give you access to treatment and a chance to improve your life. The experienced Tampa criminal defense attorneys at The Law Office of Daniel J. Fernandez, P.A. aggressively represent clients with mental health issues in the Tampa Bay Area, including Hillsborough County.
Are You Competent to Stand Trial?
If you or a loved one have been arrested for a State of Florida offense you may be entitled to a competency hearing if there are reasonable grounds to believe that you are not competent.
What Test Is Applied to Determine Competency to Stand Trial?
The proper standard in determining whether a competency hearing is required is whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that a defendant may be incompetent.
Basic constitutional rights, incorporated in Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.210, prohibit criminal proceedings from continuing when an individual is mentally incompetent at any material stage of the proceeding. To do otherwise would deny a defendant his constitutional right to a fair trial.
The test uniformly applied to determine competency to stand trial is whether a defendant has the ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding–and whether he has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him.
If There Are Reasons to Believe That a Defendant May Be Incompetent Is He Entitled to a Hearing?
According to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.210, a person accused of an offense or a violation of probation or community control who is mentally incompetent shall not be prosecuted while incompetent. Where a judge has reasonable grounds to suggest that a defendant is not mentally competent to proceed, the burden falls on the judge to conduct a competency hearing to assure that the defendant is not prosecuted while incompetent. If at any material stage of a criminal proceeding, the judge, or counsel for the defendant or for the state, has reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant is not mentally competent to proceed, the judge shall immediately enter its order setting a time for a hearing to determine the defendant’s mental condition.
Why Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
The law and rules are highly complex. It is important to act quickly and secure legal representation. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will increase your chances of getting the relief you deserve. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to have your case transferred to Mental Health Court, which can keep you from going to jail, and give you access to treatment and a chance to improve your life.
If you have been charged with a crime, you may be facing a long prison sentence. Not every attorney has the qualifications and experience to handle mental health issues or a competency hearing. You need a qualified and experienced defense lawyer to fight for your right to a fair trial. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to have you evaluated and declared incompetent to stand trial, and a chance to get the help you need.
Do You or Someone You Know Need Help with a Mental Health Issue or a Competency Hearing?
If you or someone you know has been arrested, you are probably overwhelmed and confused as to what to do next. It is critical that you get help from an experienced attorney. Mental health and competency hearings are complex and require the help of someone with mental health and competency hearing experience. An experienced mental health and competency hearing attorney will be able to help you navigate through the system and get the best possible outcome.
If you have been accused of a crime or a violation of probation or community control and have mental issues or are mentally incompetent to proceed, you should not be prosecuted while incompetent. Contact a criminal defense lawyer and request a transfer to Mental Health Court or a competency hearing if you are incompetent to proceed.