Washington is one of the states that offers clear mental health sentencing alternatives. This is due to the fact that the state recognizes that putting a felon in prison is not always the best solution. If a person has shown clear signs of needing help, it’s better to let them get it than to put them behind bars.
Conditions where mental health sentencing alternatives apply
There are a number of criminal defense scenarios in which the mandated mental health sentencing alternatives may be applied. This will normally be the case if the defendant is convicted of a felony offense that is not violent or related to sex. The defendant needs to be diagnosed with a severe mental illness that is listed in the diagnostic manual being used at the time by mental health experts.
This type of alternative to prison will be also considered possible if the court comes to certain conclusions. It needs to be determined that the community, as well as the defendant, will benefit from this type of supervision and ongoing mental health treatment. The defendant must also be willing to participate.
Alternatives must be determined by the court
A motion for a felony defendant to receive this type of alternative can be made by the court or by any party related to the case. However, the resulting agreement will need to be determined and ratified by the court. As noted above, the defendant must be willing to take part in any subsequent treatment.
It will be up to the court to issue an official ruling on whether or not the defendant suffers from a serious mental illness. To do so, the court can consider statements and other forms of evidence. These will play a part in determining whether this type of alternative is offered.