San Francisco Lawyer Handling Criminal Defense And Mental Health Issues

A major component of our criminal justice system revolves around whether an individual possessed the required intent to be charged with a crime. Things get complicated quickly when a person who is suffering from a mental illness is facing criminal charges. The question of intent in these cases is rarely clear cut. These issues are further complicated by the fact that our prison system is simply not equipped to deal with people who have mental illnesses. That is why it is important to seek help from a lawyer who understands these issues and who can help build an effective mental health defense.

At Fitch Law Office, our San Francisco attorney knows how to handle criminal defense and mental health issues. We are committed to not only helping our clients build a strong defense against criminal charges, but also to helping them secure the medical help and treatment they need.

Protecting The Rights Of All Individuals Charged With A Crime

Just because a person suffers from a mental illness does not mean that he or she does not have legal rights. We will work hard to help protect the rights of people who have been arrested and are diagnosed with any type of mental illness, including:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Depression

Regardless of diagnosis, we will fight to ensure that any mental illness is considered when mounting a criminal defense, and we will work with defendants and their family members to help them get the treatment they need. The following provides more in-depth information about the common intersections between mental health and criminal law.

Competency To Stand Trial And Insanity Pleas

Many people are confused when it comes to separating a person's competence to stand trial and entering a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. After all, how can a person be competent to stand trial, but then claim that he or she is not responsible for the alleged criminal act due to insanity?

Competency to stand trial is only concerned with the accused's mental state at the time of the legal proceedings. In other words, in order to be considered competent, a defendant must be able to understand the charges and be able to assist, however limitedly, in his or her defense.

The question of insanity only considers the defendant's state of mind at the time of the alleged criminal act. If he or she was incapable of forming the requisite intent to be found guilty of the crime, then an insanity defense may be in order. Simply put, competency questions concern the present-day state of mind of the defendant, while an insanity plea looks to the defendant's state of mind in the past, which is why the two issues are treated separately by our legal system.

Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. The name of this type of plea alone conjures images of criminals going free because they were able to successfully mount such a defense. The reality is far different.

Even if a defendant is found to be not guilty by reason of insanity, he or she will still be committed to a secure treatment facility following the trial. The hope is that the defendant will get the care he or she needs. Even so, a commitment may last a long while. Consider the case of John Hinckley Jr., the man who was charged with and subsequently found not guilty by reason of insanity in the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981. He has been committed to a treatment facility for more than 30 years.

5150 Holds

In California, a person who is considered to be a danger to him/herself or others may be placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold for treatment and evaluation. These are what are often referred to as 5150 holds. It is possible that such a hold may be abused by police officers. However, there are limited legal means of fighting such a hold. If a hold is extended beyond the 72-hour period, it may be worth employing legal help.

Contact Our Attorney If A Mentally Ill Loved One Is Facing Criminal Charges

Mental health issues are more common in the criminal justice system than most people believe. If a loved one who suffers from mental illness has been charged with a crime, get understanding and compassionate legal representation. Call 415-906-3440 or email us to schedule a consultation.