COURT WATCH: Judge Rejects Paperwork, Denies Accused Mental Health Diversion  

By Olivia Biliunas and Rajesvi Deora

WOODLAND, CA – An accused was denied Mental Health Diversion at Yolo County Superior Court late last week, despite the defense arguing the accused was diagnosed with bipolar depression and substance abuse disorder, and providing documented proof of diagnosis.

The accused currently is under trial for both felony and misdemeanor charges regarding driving under the influence with an enhancement of excessive blood alcohol level or refusal (to test), as well as public intoxication, and abuse/endangering the health of a dependent adult.

Judge Sonia Cortés rejected the Mental Health Diversion despite Defense Attorney Erica Graves arguing the accused’s medical records document his mental health diagnosis and its related symptoms, such as mood swings and erratic behavior, along with alcohol consumption issues.

Attorney Graves stated the accused’s mood swings and erratic behavior were symptoms of his diagnosed bipolar disorder, and that the diagnosis of the disorder, along with diagnosed, substance abuse issues were legally sufficient enough to grant mental health diversion, adding the accused had no criminal record prior to the incident.

Judge Cortés disagreed, as did the previous judge who heard the case, Judge David Reed, standing for another judge. Both commented there needs to be proof, such as a doctor’s note to establish the diagnosis and a “nexus” between the diagnosis and the accused’s behavior.

Defense attorney Graves responded that, although the doctor declined to write a letter establishing the diagnosis, according to the law, documented proof of diagnosis to show that the accused has mental health issues is sufficient, and it is assumed that there is a “causal linkage” between the crime and the accused’s diagnosis.

Graves noted she runs a Mental Health Diversion program in Sacramento and that it is what the accused needs.

Attorney Graves added that, although the accused has not completed a court ordered mental health program, he has been doing treatment on his own time. Additionally, Graves stated the accused has been sober since the incident.

While the prosecution was ready for a preliminary hearing, the defense was unable to bring a witness critical to the proceedings to the court, and hence asked for a continuation to a later date.

This was opposed by the prosecution, who argued the complaining witness was suffering anxiety due to the constant continuance issued by the court and that the stress of constantly coming to court was impacting the witness’ health.

However, the defense said the accused had filed a police harassment report against the complaining witness for showing up at their workplace several times over the course of the proceeding.

Judge Cortés said she was unprepared to rule on the decision to allow for Mental Health Diversion, needing documentation, despite attorney Graves’ claim of diagnosis, and deferred the motion for Mental Health Diversion to the date of the preliminary hearing.

The preliminary hearing was eventually scheduled for May 30 along with the diversion hearing.

About The Author

Olivia Biliunas is a fourth year student at UC Davis pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a minor in Professional Writing. With a passion for the field of law she hopes to one day find herself making an impact on other people's lives as a lawyer. In her spare time she loves to go skiing and wakesurfing.

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