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How Does a Defendant's Mental Health Affect His Criminal Case?

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Posted on August 06, 2018 6:00 AM EST

In the fifteen years since the Miami criminal lawyers at DMT opened this office, we have represented clients charged with murder, drug trafficking, capital sex offenses and fraud cases involving millions of dollars. While those cases are sometimes difficult, it may seem silly when we say that the most difficult cases we deal with are those for our clients that have mental health issues. While these cases do not come along often, they tend to be the most difficult to deal with for several reasons.Defendant with Mental Issues

Properly Representing Defendants with Mental Health Issues

First and foremost, there is always a conflict of interest, but not in the normal sense. In some cases, co-defendants want to hire DMT. However, this is sometimes impossible, as each of the defendants have information that could be used to prosecute the other. In mental health cases, we are often hired by a defendant's parents or other family members. While our ultimate responsibility belongs to the client, this is sometimes difficult because the defendant does not realize that he or she needs mental health treatment. While the lawyers at DMT strive to resolve the case favorably for a client in the form of dismissal, sometimes this result is not in the best interest of the client. If a client with mental health problems obtains a dismissal, the courts will no longer have jurisdiction over the client, therefore they are unable to ensure that he or she obtains the mental health treatment necessary to have a better lifestyle.

A Current Case

We are currently representing a young man, age 24, that has some of the most serious mental issues that we have ever come across. His parents are at their wit's end and the young man has never been involved in the criminal justice system before this arrest. The facts of the case are not important, but suffice it to say that the charge is a third degree felony that could be easily resolved by way of a dismissal. If the case were dismissed, the client would be back on the street subjecting himself to other criminal charges, bodily injury, or even death.

Challenges with Mental Health Cases

Our client was evaluated for mental health issues by two psychologists appointed by the judge (standard practice). He was deemed incompetent and required to go to the state hospital for restoration. Once he was restored to competency, he would have be returned to the jail until his case was closed. Therein lies the problem. While waiting to resolve his case, our client would have become incompetent again in a matter of days and been sent back to the state hospital, which would result in our client ending up in the revolving door of the mental health/criminal justice system. With the assistance of the mental health coordinators that work in the court house, we struggled but were able to find him temporary placement in a local facility while we attempt to resolve his case.

Our client is an exception. As a result of DMT's experience in mental health cases and zealous approach to helping our clients, things seem to be working out. Our client is one of the few that is receiving the proper care while the case is resolved.

Forensic Division for the Mentally Ill

Miami May Promote Mental Health Treatment for Defendants

According to a recent article in The Crime Report, Miami seems to be striving to fix the problem. Miami will apparently open the country's first "forensic division" center for the mentally ill. According to the article, the center may even be used to divert people away from the criminal justice system and assist these individuals in the ways they need to be helped. For the most part, mentally ill people will struggle in jail and never get any better. However, some offenses are serious enough where individuals will be required to remain in custody. Miami will reportedly construct a 180,000 square foot facility to act as a stand-alone treatment center for the mentally ill. While this seems to be an outstanding idea, it is a broad brush solution to the problem. Numerous rules, regulations and statutes will have to be promulgated to ensure that the intended people are receiving the necessary treatment while also protecting the community. There is sense of urgency to help mentally ill defendants, however, getting this program up and running could take years as the facility has not even been constructed.

Find an Attorney Experienced with Mental Health Cases

If you're dealing with a case that involves mental health, our Miami criminal defense attorneys are experienced in these matters. Contact us at (305) 396-3982 for more information.

References: The Crime Report
Categories: Criminal Defense
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