Texas DWI Defense Attorney Explains Mental Health Court

Texas DWI Defense Attorney Explains Mental Health Court

In Montgomery County, a new court will begin hearing cases next month. The Montgomery County mental health court is part of a national trend of sending nonviolent offenders who have severe mental illnesses to treatment rather than to prison. Mental health courts are designed to address the underlying mental health needs of defendants, not just the criminal charges against them. Addressing mental health is an important mission because many of the participants in mental health courts nationwide struggle with addiction in addition to mental illness. Some of them are also homeless.

There is a demand for mental health courts because many people who are incarcerated nationwide have underlying mental health needs. Approximately one in five people in local jails have a recent history of mental illness. Mentally ill inmates with prior convictions are more likely to end up in prison again than those who were not convicted.

The first mental health court began in Florida in 1997. Since then, they have been implemented across much of the United States. Mental health courts are modeled after drug courts, in that they seek to provide treatment instead of, or sometimes in addition to, punishment. When the program begins in August, Montgomery County will be the eighth county to start a mental health court. Experts claim that mental health courts cut incarceration costs, and they could reduce recidivism.

The new mental health court lasts a year or two and it includes psychiatric treatment, medical care, and access to public benefits and services like housing and job placement. Defendants must be found legally competent before choosing to enter the program.

As part of the mental health court program, prosecutors will dismiss minor charges if a defendant completes the program’s requirements. Drug courts have improved outcomes by reducing the number of subsequent jail days, and it reduces the instances of violence.

Most of the participants in the new mental health court will enter the mental health court after being referred by their defense attorneys. A defendant may participate in mental health court if they are accused of a misdemeanor or a nonviolent felony and they have a serious mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or a major depressive disorder. The court may also be able to accept some people with PTSD, severe anxiety or intellectual disabilities. Prosecutors will make decisions about which individuals fit the criteria for mental health court, including whether their mental illness caused the crime that they are charged with committing.

Defendants who choose to participate in mental health court will be represented at no cost by one of the two defense attorneys who are volunteering their time until funding is found. Participants will leave jail on probation or bond supervision. The mental health court program will start with creating a treatment plan that may include substance abuse treatment, psychiatric counseling, and medications. For indigent participants, the advice will be free through the Tri-County Behavioral Health program. Individuals who are enrolled in drug court will appear regularly before the judges for updates on their progress through the program’s four stages. If clients complete the requirements of mental health court, they may qualify for a reduced sentence or a dismissal of the original charges.

Jack Pettit, Attorney at Law has plenty of experience with DWI cases. He has helped many DWI clients resolve their cases, and he may be able to help you with you, too. Whether this is your first DWI or not, you deserve the support of a skilled Texas DWI Defense Attorney. Call us at 214-521-4567 today, to learn more.


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