I Have Been Charged with a Felony, Can a Mental Illness Attorney Help?


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Whether you have been charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, the attorneys at Garcia Law will defend the mentally ill no matter the circumstances. Our staff has experience with all types of cases for the mentally ill such as DUIs, drug offenses, homicides, robberies and more. So, what can you do if you are mentally ill and have been charged with a felony?

The first step after being charged with a felony is to meet with a trusted and skilled attorney. A felony is a serious crime, whether it’s violent or non-violent. If you have been charged with a felony, you could face one to 25 years in prison. In fact, you most likely will serve at least one year of imprisonment. It depends on the crime, severity of the conviction and previous offenses. For example, a class 1 felony conviction can result in a 25 year sentence.

However, if you have a mental illness and are charged with a felony, don’t let that stop you from a fair court process. Legally accused of a serious crime can come with serious consequences. If you have a mental illness, you could bring your case to the mental health courts. Keep in mind that some mental health courts are restricted to misdemeanors. This is why legal representation from Garcia Law is beneficial. We will pay close attention to your case, finding ways to receive treatment instead of punishment, or a combination of both.

Why Garcia Law?

The attorneys at Garcia Law understand the legal system and the mentally ill. Your rights must be protected in the court system, especially if you have a mental illness.  Garcia Law has experience with those suffering from mental disorders such as bi-polar, schizophrenia, mood disorders, psychotic disorders and personality disorders. We understand that you are not in full control of your mental health and will seek justice no matter what.


Posted in Arizona Laws, Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged , , , , , , |

Arizona Raises Awareness for Mental Illness


Candlelight Celebration For Mental Illness Awareness

Every year, a candlelight celebration is held to raise awareness for mental health in downtown Phoenix. The Mental Health Awareness Coalition and Arizona State University Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy hosted the 22nd annual celebration this year with the theme of embracing the journey that mental health has put many people on. While mental health is a difficult thing to deal with and can cause serious pain, it is important to celebrate those who have conquered or who have begun to get in control of their mental health and to honor the journey they have been on because of it.

Aside from bringing awareness to and celebrating mental health, this event provides Valley residents with a number of resources for those who need or know someone who needs help with mental illness. At the event, attendees have the opportunity to speak to the representatives of many different organizations that provide help and resources to valley residents struggling with mental illness. This event is so helpful because it shows people what types of help are out there and it allows them to gain information all in one place.

Arizona’s Lack Of Mental Health Care

Although this event and others like it are designed to provide resources to those in need of mental health guidance, access to mental health care is still lacking. According to Mental Health America, Arizona ranks 40th in the country’s access to mental health care. One of the biggest problems is de-stigmatizing mental health and mental health education.

Events like the one held by The Mental Health Awareness Coalition and Arizona State University Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy are a great step in the right direction because they spread awareness throughout communities. Not many people feel comfortable talking about mental health, but having events that celebrate it encourages them to do so. The more people that are educated about mental health the more progress that can be made.

Photo by Andreas Lischka

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Bernardo Garcia is Phoenix’s Attorney of the Month, July 2017


Providing Justice for Phoenix-area Mentally Ill.

Bernardo’s Criminal Defense practice is unique in the Phoenix area. He is featured as the Attorney of the Month. Read his story online on Attorney At Law Magazine  or download the PDF.

Attorney at Law Magazine, phoenix mental health defense attorney
attorney at law magazine's attorney of the month

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Tucson Police Will Be Trained in Handling Mental Health


Police officers in Tucson have begun to receive training to better handle mental health crisis calls. Chief Chris Magnus said that 500 officers are expected to complete training by the end of the year. This puts the Tucson Police Department ahead of the rest of the country in mental health training.

Mental Health Support Team

Tucson Police DepartmentThe police department’s Mental Health Support Team are the personnel responsible for going out to de-escalate a crisis in a serious situation, but they are not typically the first responders. Tucson PD aims to have all their patrol officers trained on how to handle mental health crises because they are typically the first to respond.

In the past two years, officers transported 4,060 people in crisis for mental health evaluations and treatment.

Criminal justice workers, law enforcement officers, and behavioral-health experts in Pima County all came together to discuss treatment rather than jail terms for those suffering from mental health and substance abuse at a Decriminalizing Mental Illness conference.

“Two million people a year with mental health and substance abuse issues are incarcerated nationwide. Jails have become de-facto mental health institutions,” said Magnus

The officers will take an eight-hour course that covers situations including how to deal with someone having suicidal thoughts, depression, panic attacks, traumatic events affecting adults or children, acute psychosis, aggressive behavior, and those undergoing substance abuse and need emergency medical treatment. Magnus said there is already a waitlist for officers who want to complete the training.

The people the TPD offers help to are not just people on the street, they are families and friends at every socioeconomic level.

Magnus plans on having every officer on every level of the department trained on mental health crisis, including detectives, dispatchers, supervisors and remaining staff members

Photo by Jerilyn Quintanilla

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How is Mental Fitness Tested?


When using a mental health defense for y our case, you will have to be tested to determine whether you are mentally ill. A mental health evaluation is conducted by physicians to get an overall picture of how your mental health is. They’ll test how well you’re able to think, reason and remember by asking you questions and examining you either vocally or in writing. They will assess how you look, your mood, behavior, thinking, reasoning, memory and overall ability to express yourself. In some cases, they will also conduct a blood or urine test.

mental health patient counselingWhy are mental health evaluations done?

Mental health evaluations can help your physician find out if you have a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, or anorexia nervosa.

People are usually referred to get a mental health exam because they are having problems at home, work or school. They may also have a court ordered petition for an evaluation after being arrested for a crime that may relate to their mental health.

What is the result of a mental health evaluation?

Mental health evaluations help physicians determine if a person needs treatment for a mental health disorder and if they a danger to themselves or others. If the person does in fact need treatment, the physician can recommend one, including medication.

What happens in mental health evaluations ordered by the court?

After being evaluated, if there is enough evidence to prove that the person needs help with their mental health, the court may order them to treatment. The treatment may be completed at a hospital or at a community based clinic, or both.

The maximum period for court ordered treatment is 365 days. The person ordered to treatment may request a judicial review after 60 days if they believe their circumstances have improved. During the review the court may changes the order for treatment, lessening the amount of days that must be completed or terminating the treatment completely.

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , |

Can Charges Be Dropped Due to Mental Illness


The Definition of Legal Insanity

To plea mentally ill after being charged of a crime, the mental illness must be so severe that society should not deem the offender morally responsible for their behavior. This is because most people who commit a crime results in some distortion of the mental process. While the courts continue to distinguish between those who cannot be held morally responsible due to mental illness and those who deserve time in prison, there are two tests used by the court to define mental illness.

· The M’Naghten Test determines whether the defendant knew right from wrong when committing the crime.
· The Brawner Test is used in some states in place of the M’Naghten test and it deems the defendant insane if, by mental defect, they lack the capacity to understand the criminality of their actions.
· The Irresistible Impulse Test determines if defendants are insane if their mental disorder prevents them from resisting the compulsion of an illegal act.

Trial Procedures for Pleading Mentally Ill

Defendants who choose to plead mental illness must inform the court before the trial begins. The court will then assign a psychiatrist to the case who will examine the defendant and then testify in the trial. Defendants must convince the judge or jury that they were insane at the time they committed the criminal act using clear evidence. The psychiatrist will also provide a mental diagnosis concerning the defendant’s mental illness.

Being Found Not Guilty Due to Mental Illness

If the defendant is found not guilty due to mental insanity they are typically sentenced to being confined to a mental health facility until they are able to convince the judge that they are no longer mentally insane. These sentences are usually longer periods of time than the defendant would have spent in prison.

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What Goes into a Mental Health Defense?


A mental health defense, or the insanity defense, is not a get out of jail free card. A lot goes in to a defense to prove insanity and in the end the sentences are not a walk in the park. Many times a defendant is found guilty but get a less serious sentence due to a mental impairment. Other times a defendant may be found not guilty due to reasons of insanity. But in these cases, the defendants are still usually ordered to stay at a mental health facility, to complete treatments and to face other consequences. It also takes a lot of investigating to determine if the defendant was in fact mentally impaired at the time of the crime. The following article will explain what goes in to making a mental health defense.

How Courts Test for Legal Insanity

courtroom mental health defense

In order to prove that a defendant was mentally impaired at the time they committed a crime, you must be able to prove at least one of the following:

  • The “M’Naghten Rule” – Defendant either did not understand what he or she did, or failed to distinguish right from wrong, because of a “disease of mind.”
  • The “Irresistible Impulse” Test – As a result of a mental disease, defendant was unable to control his impulses, which led to a criminal act.
  • The “Durham Rule” – Regardless of clinical diagnosis, defendant’s “mental defect” resulted in a criminal act.
  • The “Model Penal Code” Test for Legal Insanity – Because of a diagnosed mental defect, defendant either failed to understand the criminality of his acts, or was unable to act within the confines of the law.

The defendant is typically tested by medical professionals and psychiatrists who can testify to their mental capabilities. Although, the insanity defense is not commonly used as a defense because it doesn’t get the defendant out scot-free.

Posted in Arizona, Arizona Laws, Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged , , , , , |

Tucson Held VA’s Third Annual Mental Health Summit


The number of veterans dealing with PTSD and other mental health issues continues to grow in Arizona so the VA in Tucson is taking the necessary steps to build a larger safety net for them. The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System recently hosted a Community Mental Health Summit to discuss how to bring better services to help veterans and their families.

Mental Health Summit in Arizona

More than 40 percent of veterans who use VA health services have mental health conditions or substance use disorders, according to the Veterans Administration. So this year, when the community met for their annual summit, their goal was to make connections with the VA and partners in the community that can help.

Among the topics that were discussed at the summit were the following:

  • The high suicide rate among veterans, which is estimated to be around 20 per day
  • How they can improve the quality of life for veterans and their families
  • Getting community partners to provide wrap-around care for veterans and their loved ones
  • The new mental health building being built on the Tucson campus

Right now, while veterans can be treated by the VA, their families cannot. This is one of the things the summit wants to change because these issues can take a huge toll on veterans’ loved ones. The VA hopes to collaborate with community partners to provide a wrap around service that offers help to veterans’ family members.

The VA is also building a new mental health building on the Tucson campus. It opens next year in January and will house residential treatment programs for veterans who have substance abuse issues or PTSD. It will be open to veterans to see the primary care doctor and a psychiatrist all in the same day if needed, all without the need of a referral. This is an innovative program that many other VA’s are copying.

Posted in Arizona, Mental Health | Tagged , , |

Reducing Violence In Police Situations Involving the Mentally Disabled


Our firm has been a proponent of Phoenix non-profit “David’s Hope” for years.   A recent article in the Arizona Republic gives a broad-reaching update, and spotlights founder Mary Brncik’s work on behalf of the mentally disabled in reducing violent interactions with law enforcement.

A recent white paper by the Ruderman Family Foundation claims that fully 1/3 of all people killed by police officers are mentally disabled.  Remember that even loved ones may call the police when they do not know how to handle a situation.

Police agencies say that the mentally disabled should be handled by mental health professionals, not the police.  Police reports are likely not to record whether or not a suspect has a mental disability.

The Phoenix Police Department have used a “Crisis Intervention Training” system to more efficiently connect people in crisis to the services they need, for over 14 years.  This training requires 40 hours, and it is estimated that 25% of officers receive it.

In addition, a designated mental health squad has been created in the Phoenix PD.  All of these initiatives are aimed at providing better outcomes, and eliminating violence.

See the original article, by Sara Weber of Cronkite News, here.

Posted in Arizona |

Can Amnesia be a Legal Defense


Amnesia is the loss of memory caused by psychological and physical trauma. While in order to be responsible for a crime the person must remember committing it, not remembering the crime is rarely the same as not committing the crime. So how can amnesia be used as a legal defense?

Legal defenses under amnesia

Amnesia is not considered the same as having a mental illness while committing a crime. The defendant’s mental state is what is important when trying to use amnesia as a defense. If the defendant lost their memory after they committed the crime, it has no effect on the defendant while they were committing the crime. Amnesia is not typically a sound defense, but it may be if the amnesia made the defendant experience conditions stated in the insanity defense.

Standing trial with amnesia as a legal defense

using amnesia as legal defenseAmnesia can be a factor when courts are deciding whether the defendant is competent enough to stand trial. Courts consider the following when determining whether the defendant is competent enough to stand trial:

  • whether the defendant is able to discuss the defense of the case
  • whether the amnesia is temporary or permanent
  • whether the crime can be reconstructed without the defendant’s testimony
  • whether the government’s files can help in preparing the case
  • the strength of government’s case.

The judge or jury can take these factors into consideration when deciding the penalty of the crime, but amnesia is typically not used to determine whether the defendant is innocent or guilty.

Using amnesia to plea insanity

Defendants must tell prosecutors before the trial if they plan to use insanity as a defense. Psychiatrists will examine the defendant prior to the trail and then will testify during the trial whether they believe the defendant was “insane” while committing the crime.

Photo by Nathan Laurell

Posted in Law Enforcement, Mental Health | Tagged , , |