Mental Health

Diversion

• Mental health diversion is available in some counties in Florida, including Broward. The program is for individuals with a mental health diagnosis and gives them a way to resolve their case without going to trial or entering into a plea. Diversion is available typically to defendants who have been charged with non-violent felonies and have a mental health diagnosis.

Mental health diversion usually involves seeing a doctor regularly, taking medication, etc. As long as the defendant follows the program guidelines their case can be dismissed at the completion of the diversion program.

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGI)

• Not guilty by reason of insanity is an affirmative defense that can be used if a defendant meets the very strict criteria. The defendant must have a mental illness, was suffering from that illness at the time of their crime, and because of their mental illness (1) was not able to understand the consequences of their actions; or (2) understood the consequences of their actions but was not able to tell that what they were doing was wrong. This is known as the M’Naghten rule.

This defense is not used very often due to most defendants not meeting the criteria. But if a defendant meets the criteria this defense can prevent them from a prison sentence and have them sent to a state hospital instead. If a defendant is found not guilty by insanity the State has jurisdiction over them for life. Due to this not all defendants that meet criteria wish to pursue this defense, and it is best used on serious crimes.

Competency

• Competency is a very important aspect in a criminal case. Competency to proceed means that a defendant understands the basic functions of the court, the personal and the system, is able to help in their defense, make rational decisions and assist their counsel. Each defendant is assumed competent to proceed unless a court has found them to be incompetent. Competency must be raised if there is any concern that a criminal defendant does not understand meet the basic criteria for competency. A defendant must be evaluated by at least 2 forensic psychologists to determine if they are competent to proceed or not. Depending on the evaluation results a hearing may need to be held where the judge would rule on competency and placement if appropriate. If a person is found incompetent to proceed their case will then be transferred to mental health division and they will be placed on conditional release or sent to the state hospital.

Baker Act

• A Baker Act is an involuntary commitment of a person to a hospital/facility for the safety of themselves or others. A Baker Act can be begun by the police or a citizen. Typically, a Baker act is begun when a police officer responds to a 911 call for assistance for a mentally ill person being violent. Under Florida statute, a person can be held for up to 72 hours at a Baker act facility before having a hearing. If a person is not released prior to a hearing, the state must present evidence to a magistrate that the person meets criteria to be held at the facility longer. The magistrate must make a finding that the person is a danger to themselves or others or in danger of not caring for themselves properly. Each person facing a Baker act proceeding is entitled to be represented by counsel.