Many people end up in the criminal justice system because they have an underlying mental health problem. The Superior Court of the District of Columbia now has a mental health community court, which can be good option for certain clients with mental health issues.

To be eligible for mental health community court, a defendant must have a verified mental illness and not more than three (3) pending misdemeanors. But, mental health court will not accept anyone charged with domestic violence (DV) or a weapons or firearms offense.

It is incumbent on the client or his attorney to provide notice of a mental health diversion to the Pretrial Services Agency (PSA) and arrange for a mental health screening interview. Pretrial has formed a new Specialized Supervision Unit to monitor mental health court clients, both those waiting for trial and those on probation.

From there, the client must agree to a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, Deferred Sentencing Agreement or if charged with a felony, an Amended Sentencing Agreement. The conditions are identical to DPA’s, DSA’s and ASA’s in non-mental health courts, except that the defendant must participate in mental health treatment and if necessary drug testing and treatment.

Whether mental health community court is right depends on each case, and can only be determined after full and complete discussions between the client and his own attorney.

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