Communicating Your Mental Illness to Your Attorney as Honestly and Accurately as Possible

17December
2018

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Working with a trusted criminal defense lawyer that you can be honest and open with is important. To receive the best legal representation, you need to always be up front with your attorney about your mental illness and the details surrounding your case. Remember, they are on your side so that you go through the justice system fairly and receive a fair punishment.

Communication starts with your attorney. The right attorney will encourage you to be honest and open the line of communication. Since they specialize in mental health cases, they know and understand what you are going through. All of your rights are protected, including your medical information and your legal issues. An experienced mental illness attorney will know how to break that lack of communication and will deliver compassionate, supportive and non-judgmental legal advice and representation.

When there are no secrets between you and your attorney, it will only help your case. As long as you let your attorney know all of the details, they will be able to help you receive a fair and reasonable punishment. If you are being charged with a crime and suffer from a mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, manic depression or other mental illnesses, highly consider visiting an experienced and skilled mental illness criminal defense attorney for legal advice and representation.

Garcia Law

With more than 25 years of experience, Garcia Law offers seasoned professionals that communicate fully with their clients. They know their clients’ rights and options, always making them feel like they are on their side. From a wide range of legal issues from felonies to misdemeanors, Garcia Law has the proper education and knowledge to fight for you. Just because you have a mental illness, doesn’t mean you should be silenced. Garcia Law will fight to ensure that you receive a fair case and punishment.

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Am I Eligible for Mental Health Court?

26September
2018

If you have a mental illness and are facing charges, dealing with the legal system can be an overwhelming experience. Fortunately, there are certain circumstances where a person with a mental illness can qualify for mental health court, making the process much easier.

What are mental health courts?

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Mental health courts are specialty courts that combine judicial supervision along with community treatment and support for those with a mental illness. The purpose of these courts is to help reduce criminal activity and improve the quality of life of the participants. Mental health courts have seen success by reducing incarceration, preventing more crimes from being committed, and offering help and support.

Who qualifies for mental health courts?

Defendants can only be referred to mental health courts by defense attorneys, judges, service providers, jail staff, or family members. To be considered to participate in mental health court, a defendant must agree to plead guilty. Each program varies by state, but most mental health courts will accept defendants that suffer from a severe mental illness such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Offenses accepted in the courts can range from misdemeanors to felony charges. However, DUIs, sexual offenses, and violent crimes resulting in injury are usually excluded automatically.

Mental health court approval

All defendants are screened early on, either at the jail or by a court staff. Each mental health court is a little different when it comes to what offenses are accepted, all depending on their jurisdiction. All mental illnesses must be diagnosed by a doctor after a comprehensive assessment following the screening process. The defendant must fully agree to comply with all of the mental health courts terms and conditions.

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What Exactly are Mental Health Courts?

17August
2018

A serious mental health illness can make court cases complicated. Luckily, adults with a serious mental health illness can attend a Mental Health Court. You may have heard of Mental Health Courts, but what exactly are they and who qualifies for them?

Definition

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Mental Health Courts are specialty courts that combines judicial supervision along with community treatment and support for those with a mental health illness. This process helps reduce criminal activity and improves the quality of life of the participants.

The goals of mental health courts include:

  • Reduce incarceration
  • Prevents participants from committing even more crimes
  • Provide mental health help and support

Who qualifies?

To qualify for Mental Health Courts, there are specific medical and legal criteria that someone must follow.

Medical – must have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or any axis 1 disorders, which include PTSD and depression.

Legal – Must attend court in the same county the participant lives in, but there are some crimes that automatically excludes qualifying for these specialty courts:

  • DUIs
  • Sexual offenses
  • Violent crimes resulting in injury

Requirements

It is always best to talk to a mental health attorney to know if you qualify and if a Mental Health Court is the right option for you. If you do end up attending a Mental Health Court, keep in mind that you must fully complete your sentence.

Participants must:

  • Follow the treatment plan that was given to them
  • Take any medications prescribed
  • Attend counseling/group sessions that will be provided to them
  • Report to the judge at least once a week (this can be reduced to once a month based on multiple factors)
  • Undergo standard probation rules including drug testing

The experienced mental health attorneys at Garcia Law Firm are here to help. If you think you could benefit from Mental Health Courts, contact us today for legal guidance.

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Employer Responsibilities Regarding Mental Health

18May
2018

In recent years, workplaces have been known to implement programs benefiting the physical, mental and overall wellness of the employees. Many companies have even added a Chief Wellness Officer to the staff.  Still, more needs to be done. What else can employers do to help break the stigma about mental health and talk about it more openly in the workplace?

The Issue

Many employees are afraid to talk to their employer about mental health and for many reasons.

  • Afraid of losing respect from their employer
  • Afraid their job or promotion could be at risk
  • Feeling ashamed
  • Increased anxiety
  • Afraid to ask for accommodations

What can employers do to help?

Employers need to take offer additional resources to help with mental health in the workplace.

  • Work-life balance – Giving the option to work from home can help decrease anxiety in employees. Having the flexibility to know that they can work from home, let’s say during a bad storm when weather makes it difficult to get to work, will eliminate any extra stress. The fair policies in place should be beneficial to both the employees and company.
  • Paid Time Off – When employees receive paid time off, they will not feel guilty or uncomfortable when they are unable to go to work if they are sick. By having less options like this at work, many employees feel powerless. Plus, time off helps better the performance of employees, which benefits the company overall.

Photo by Eli DeFaria on Unsplash

Communication is key!

Communication is of course key. Employers should talk openly about their policies that help with the mental health of their employees. The way employees interact with each other at work and the environment of the workplace can also play a big impact on the mental health of employees and their performance, which is why employers want to make the workplace an ideal and pleasant experience for all.

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Arizona Prisons Struggle with Rise in Inmate Self-Harm

18October
2017

As the mental health care in state prisons becomes increasingly worse, more and more inmates are attempting to harm themselves. New reports on inmate self-harm have come in as a result of the ADC attempting to settle a lawsuit over poor health conditions in state prisons. According to the data, hundreds of inmates in Arizona prisons have hurt themselves and tried to take their own lives this year. 

Mental Health in Arizona Prisons

Inmate self-harm has increased dramatically in the past year due to the lack of mental health care in state prisons. According to the ADC report, total incidents have increased by 70 percent. Over 80 inmates have tried to hang themselves and more than 138 have tried to overdose. The number of inmates using blunt force trauma such as banging their head against the wall of inserting sharp objects into their bodies to harm themselves has also almost tripled in just one year.

What this problem comes down to is the understaffing of health-care professionals in state prisons. For example, the state prison in Douglas, AZ has no medical director and just one psych associate. There’s just not enough care about mental and physical health in the state prison system and therefore no one is worried about getting resources into the prisons to help people get better. 

The state prison in Phoenix, which was designed for seriously mentally ill inmates, has less than half of the psychiatric staff that was supposed to be employed there, as well as having no psychiatric director and no mental health director.

In attempts fix the self-harm problem, the state is now training personnel on how to handle inmate self-harm incidents. They have also started a program to help watch and transition inmates back into the population after they’ve harmed themselves.

According to the ACD, the year 2018 is already on track to be the worst in inmate self-harm.

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Mental Health Stigmas

16August
2017

Estimated to affect one in four Americans on average, mental illness is often considered to be a silent epidemic. Mental health stigma is a term used when people experiencing mental health issues are perceived negatively because of their condition, and may even face discrimination. Continue reading to learn about ways in which mental health is stigmatized, why this may make treatment more difficult, and what can be done to change society’s outlook on mental health.

How is Mental Health Stigmatized?

Mental health stigma exists in the workplace, in social settings, and even at the doctor’s office. People suffering from mental health issues generally hide their illness from coworkers in fear of losing their job or the respect of their peers. When people learn their significant other, family member, or friend is suffering from a mental illness, they may subconsciously withhold contact or look at them in a less favorable light. Studies also show that doctors are much less likely to follow up with patients battling depression compared with patients battling a physical illness.

Why Does Mental Health Stigma Make Treatment Increasingly Difficult?

Mental health problems do not discriminate and can affect anyone. People suffering from mental health issues may find themselves in a cycle of unstable relationships, difficulty finding and keeping jobs, and even homelessness. Finding a treatment plan that works can be difficult enough without having to deal with the constant fear of rejection and humiliation which often comes along with mental illness. People may avoid treatment in fear of people discovering their mental illness. When people suffering from mental illness feel ostracized, this acts as a catalyst for their condition to become worse.

What Can be Done to Prevent Mental Health Stigma?

In order to put an end to mental health stigma, people need to be educated on the various forms of mental illness. Many people assume mental illness sufferers are dangerous and violent, creating untrue stereotypes and judgements. Schools and workplaces need to improve mental health programs to educate the public and provide support for people who are suffering from mental illness, as well as the people who are affected by it.

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What Are Sentences for Mentally Ill Offenders?

23January
2017

Many Americans with mental illness end up in jails and prisons each year. They also tend to spend longer terms in prison and end up back in prison costing local jurisdictions more money. They are typically jailed for nonviolent reasons and end up lacking the treatment they need. So what are other options for the mentally ill offenders that doesn’t involve incarceration?

Mental Health Sentences in Arizona

The best way to treat a mentally ill offender is to sentence them to some kind  of treatment program where they can get the help they need. Community corrections is an alternative to prison for nonviolent offenders. The mentally ill can benefit from these programs because they provide several treatments aimed at helping mental disorders and substance addiction. Below are several treatment options mentally ill offenders can be sentenced to:

  • Assessment and evaluation services: individual assessments and evaluations of substance abuse and mental disorders that can be requested by individuals, families, schools and the Criminal Justice System.
  • Mental health services: treatment programs specifically designed to treat mental illnesses in kids and adults short term and long term.
  • Sober living and recovery support: this is a safe transition space before fully returning to independent living or an alternative to residential treatment depending on the situation.
  • Mother and child residential services: professional services for pregnant women and women with young children in a residential setting.
  • Adult outpatient services: Adults have the option of receiving outpatient services that provide a comprehensive array of substance abuse and mental health programs. All programs use evidence based practices that are safe, supportive and accredited.
  • Adult residential services: residential treatments are catered to each individual and create solutions to meet each individual’s needs. Stay lengths are flexible and programs meet any treatment needs.
  • Adult detoxification and stabilization: medical and social detoxification and stabilization services that helps individuals detox safely and then connects them to the next level of care.

 

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How is Mental Fitness Tested?

14January
2017

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.

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Can Charges Be Dropped Due to Mental Illness

30December
2016

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?

14December
2016

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.

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