The Rights of Mentally Ill People in Arizona’s Justice System

3January
2019

Mentally ill people sometimes feel they have no rights in Arizona’s criminal justice system. This is not the case.

If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, you have rights. People with disabilities, including psychiatric disabilities, are afforded legal rights to protect them from discrimination, abuse, and neglect in the criminal justice system.

You do not lose your rights, even if you are ordered a course of treatment by the courts.

When a mental illness interferes with a defendant’s right to a fair trial, a Rule 11 hearing may be held. The US Supreme Court set out the test for competency to stand trial in Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402 (1960).

what are the rights of mentally ill people

The rights of mentally ill people

To be found competent to stand trial, the defendant must be able to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and to have a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against him.

The defendant must be able to assist his lawyer in his defense and understand both the charges and potential consequences of a criminal trial.

People who are receiving mental health treatment have a right to participate in all phases of their treatment, including individual support planning meetings.

They have a right to refuse or consent to treatment unless an emergency court order has been made. People suffering from mental illness have a right to be spared unnecessary seclusion and restraint, or sexual and physical assault.

People with mental illness also have the right to appeal a court-ordered involuntary commitment and to request a judicial review of court-ordered treatment every 60 days.  They have the right to legal advice from an attorney.

If you or a relative is being held in a residential or an inpatient facility, you should not be denied the right to communicate or to send and receive mail and to receive visitors.

Mentally ill people have a right to have their medical and mental health information kept confidential by healthcare providers, with some exceptions. Records may be disclosed to people closely involved in your care; to people if you signed a valid release of information document; to lawyers working on your behalf, and following a court order.

Treatment and evaluation can be ordered by a court in Arizona when:

  • The individual is a danger to themselves
  • He or she is judged to be a danger to others
  • The individual is gravely disabled
  • He or she is persistently and acutely disabled.

In a criminal court or another proceeding in Arizona, you will not always be made aware of your rights if you are suffering from a mental illness. You should not rely on the authorities. Contact a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer who specializes in the rights of the mentally ill. Call us today at (602) 340-1999.

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