The California Association of Deputy District Attorneys is sounding the alarm over a new law that she says “will result in irreparable harm to California citizens.”
A measure snuck into the “Omnibus Health Trailer Budget Bill” for 2018 radically changes California’s criminal justice system and was done so without vetting, discussion, a call for comments or outreach to the public of any kind before it was signed by Gov. Brown in June.
Buried deep in AB 1810 is a provision which allows a defendant claiming to suffer from a mental disorder to be granted pre-trial diversion for any crime, if a judge agrees the disorder played a significant role in the commission of the crime. This means criminal proceedings are halted for up to two years, and if there is “substantial compliance” by the defendant within that time, the bill would “require the court to dismiss the defendant’s criminal charges … and the arrest deemed never to have occurred, and would require the court to order access to the record of the arrest restricted.” (Section 15, AB 1810)
Unlike past reform bills, AB 1810 does not include a list of crimes making a defendant ineligible for this mental health diversion. When AB 109 (realignment) was passed in 2011, it specifically excluded serious and violent felons, and sex offenders.
Proposition 47, which reduced a number of crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, was approved by voters in 2014. Although flawed, this bill did include provisions to exclude certain violent felonies and sex crimes, although rape of an unconscious person was evidently not considered a serious enough crime to be excluded.
Even Proposition 57, passed in 2016, which makes it much easier for supposedly nonviolent criminals to gain early parole, contained some exclusions for particularly violent crimes.
AB 1810 has no such safeguards. It applies to murderers, rapists, robbers, child molesters and arsonists, and unlike previous legislation, AB 1810 does not take into account the defendant’s criminal history.
According to Michele Hanisee, a spokesperson for the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, “a defendant charged with any crime can get those charges dismissed if they convince a judge the mental disorder they suffer from played a ‘major’ role in the charged crime; if a mental health expert says the symptoms motivating the criminal behavior would respond to treatment; and if the defendant undergoes ‘treatment’ during a diversion period with no minimum time period and a maximum of two years. Incredibly, only the defense gets to submit a psychiatric report; the prosecution has no opportunity to rebut that report with their own report or have their own expert examine the defendant. Finally, the mental health treatment shall be deemed ‘satisfactory’ and dismissal granted should a defendant ‘substantially comply’ with the diversion conditions and commit no ‘significant’ new crimes while in diversion, although what constitutes ‘substantial completion’ or a ‘significant’ crime is not defined in the bill.”