Houston Criminal Law Blog

EXPERIENCED. AGGRESSIVE. HOUSTON CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAW FIRM: The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp

Sheriff to Hire Mental Health Patrol Deputies

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/A-plan-to-keep-mentally-ill-out-of-jail-2135041.php

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett often cites both the humanitarian and economic benefit of providing mental health services to indigent people.  Without such services, poor people who suffer from mental illness often end up in the one place in town that will provide them with free mental health care: the Harris County Jail.  It is better for all involved if an indigent person with mental illness is given treatment instead of being incarcerated:  the mentally ill person gets free health care (not to mention being spared from the rough world of the jailhouse), and the County does not have to pay the high costs of incarcerating that person.

That’s why it was refreshing to hear that Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia is implementing a new program which will create mental health patrol units.  These units will be dispatched to locations where law enforcement is interacting with a person who is suspected of being mentally ill.  The goal of this program is to divert mentally ill people into treatment programs, instead of sending them to jail.

In Texas, when a lawyer believes that his client is too mentally ill to stand trial, he has a duty to inform the Judge of that belief.  Once that happens, the Judge will have the defendant evaluated by a psychologist to determine if he or she is competent to stand trial.  To be competent a defendant must have the ability to consult with his or her attorney with” a rational degree of understanding” and have a “rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him or her.”  For legal purposes, competency is not the same thing as sanity.  Sanity deals with a defendant’s mental state at the time an offense is committed, and competency deals with a defendant’s mental state at the time of his or her trial.

If you or a family member has been charged with a crime in Harris County, call the Law Office of The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp for a free consultation.

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