If your criminal clients suffer from mental health issues, they may be eligible to earn a dismissal of their charges. Here's how.
MHTC is a pre-plea option for criminal clients with qualifying mental health diagnoses and criminal records. Participants who successfully complete the 8-month minimum program have qualifying charges dismissed. Those who do not complete the program may return to the court of origin and handle their case as they choose since no agreement to plead guilty is entered as a condition of acceptance.
Requirements and Disqualifiers
Participants must be at least 18 years old, not currently enrolled in high school, and be residents of Forsyth, Davie, Rockingham, or Stokes County.
Participants must have a qualifying Axis I mental health diagnosis, such as schizophrenia, bi-polar, PTSD, or major depressive disorder. That list is not exclusive. If a participant's primary diagnosis is substance abuse, they will be referred to Drug Treatment Court (please see the DTC Guide).
DWI's are not permitted in MHTC. Upper-level felonies will not be accepted.
There is no bright line test for which criminal records the DA will accept into MHTC; however, the worse the record, the slimmer the chances of acceptance.
Screening, Assessment, and Acceptance
If your client is charged with a felony or any level crime involving assault, the DA must approve your client prior to them being screened by a mental health professional. Fill out the referral form (link below) and fax it to Jessica Spencer at the Office of the Forsyth District Attorney or deliver it to their offices on the 7th floor of the Forsyth County Hall of Justice. She will review your client's record, speak with necessary parties (LEO, victim) and return the form to you either accepting or rejecting your client.
If the DA accepts your client, fax the screening form to Rebecca Lawrence, whose information is at the top of the referral form. She will contact your client and screen them to determine whether they are diagnostically appropriate for MHTC. If your client is in jail, she will screen them there.
If your client is NOT charged with either a felony or a crime involving assault, then fill out the referral form and send it directly to Rebecca Lawrence. The DA does NOT have to approve it first.
Once your client is screened, their case will be discussed at the next staffing session of MHTC. Lawyers are expected to attend. MHTC is the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month. Staffing begins at 1:00pm in courtroom 3C. Lawyers attend to answer questions and advocate for their client's acceptance. The MHTC team consisting of the judge, DA, treatment, and defense counsel vote as to whether your client is accepted.
If your client is accepted, they can begin that day. If not, their case is assigned a new court date in the court of origin.
PRO TIP: If a MHTC participant picks up new criminal charges while in the program, those may also be accepted into MHTC for future dismissal if approved by the DA and the team.
What Clients Should Expect in MHTC
Participants should expect to come to court twice per month and to call into the Court Coordinator in the off-weeks. While everyone's treatment will look different, there is generally at least one therapy component and med management as appropriate. Success is rewarded with advancing through each of the court's 4 stages (the program is a minimum of 8 months). Failure to comply is punished by sanctions ranging from essay writing to jail time.
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