I have a mental health issue and I’ve been charged with a crime. What are my options?
Question & AnswerI have a mental health issue and I’ve been charged with a crime. What are my options?
You may be able to access mental health options at different stages of your criminal case if you have a condition that affects your ability to:
- understand right from wrong,
- understand how your actions affect others and yourself, or
- make reasonable decisions or participate in your case
These options include:
- Bail: a mental health court worker can help you develop a release plan that accommodates your mental health issues.
- Mental health : the Crown may agree to withdraw your charges if you participate in a program through the mental health court, or if you get treatment for your mental health issues.
- Sentencing: the judge may give you a less serious if you show that your crime is connected to your mental health issues.
Common examples of mental health issues considered in criminal law include bipolar, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a first episode of psychosis, among others. Mental health options may also be available if you have a cognitive disability or brain injury. In criminal law, this doesn't include drug or alcohol addiction.
And some courts also offer options for people experiencing issues with drug or alcohol addiction.
Mental Health Court
Mental health court is a court for people experiencing mental health issues. Mental health courts don't hear trials.
Most mental health courts only deal with mental health diversion and fitness hearings.
Usually, mental health diversion means that the Crown will withdraw your charges if you show that you're effectively dealing with your mental health issues. This often means that you participate in a program through the mental health court or you get treatment for your mental health.
Some mental health courts also handle:
Ask your lawyer or if your local courthouse has a mental health court and what types of issues that court can handle.
Get legal help
Speak to duty counsel or your lawyer about your options.
In many courthouses, there are also mental health court workers who you can talk to about your options. Court staff can tell you if there is a mental health office in your courthouse.
Mental health court workers or duty counsel might refer you to appropriate services or to lawyers that help clients with mental health issues.
If you need urgent medical help, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.