New Virginia Law Creating a Behavioral Health Specialized Hearing Process – Effective July 1, 2020
Here is a new law that was brought to the Code by the new Democrat Majority in the House and the Senate. While I am now a Criminal Lawyer Fairfax Virginia, I served in the State legislature from 1994-2017. For most of that time, there was a Republican Majority. I was a Republican. We had a philosophy that one type of crime or defendant or victim was not more or less important than other crimes, defendants or victims. So, we resisted efforts to create new specialized courts. Some people wanted “drug courts” where all people charged with drug offenses got special attention. Some of these were created. The opposition to these new specialized courts, was that now all people who were not charged with drugs had to wait to get their cases heard. In addition, it was argued that the purpose of Drug Courts was to give people charged with drugs special treatment and that would inevitably lead to victims of crimes committed by people on drugs not geting justice (e.g. restitution). Contrary to these arguments, the few Drug Courts that were created turned out to work out fine. Defendants did not get “special treatment.” Instead, they got counseling and drug education that they needed. And victims still got restitution.
Given the success of Drug Courts, numerous bills creating specialized Courts started to appear. A “Veterans Docket” created a specialized calendar to coordinate treatment for veterans accused of crimes. The specialized “docket” is really another name for “Court.” No new court was actually created, but rather, specialized procedures are imposed that help veterans were created. These new specialized dockets are popular with every Criminal Lawyer Fairfax Virginia because they will get their clients treatment.
Here is the text of the new law. Italics is new language. Strike throughs take out existing language.
§ 18.2-254.3. Behavioral Health Docket Act.
- A. This section shall be known and may be cited as the “Behavioral Health Docket Act.”
- B. The General Assembly recognizes the critical need to promote public safety and reduce recidivism by addressing co-occurring behavioral health issues, such as mental illness and substance abuse, related to persons in the criminal justice system. It is the intention of the General Assembly to enhance public safety by facilitating the creation of behavioral health dockets to accomplish this purpose.
- C. The goals of behavioral health dockets shall include (i) reducing recidivism; (ii) increasing personal, familial, and societal accountability among offenders through ongoing judicial intervention; (iii) addressing mental illness and substance abuse that contribute to criminal behavior and recidivism; and (iv) promoting effective planning and use of resources within the criminal justice system and community agencies. Behavioral health dockets promote outcomes that will benefit not only the offender but society as well.
- D. Behavioral health dockets are specialized criminal court dockets within the existing structure of Virginia’s court system that enable the judiciary to manage its workload more efficiently. Under the leadership and regular interaction of presiding judges, and through voluntary offender participation, behavioral health dockets shall address offenders with mental health conditions and drug addictions that contribute to criminal behavior. Behavioral health dockets shall employ evidence-based practices to diagnose behavioral health illness and provide treatment, enhance public safety, reduce recidivism, ensure offender accountability, and promote offender rehabilitation in the community. Local officials shall complete a planning process recognized by the state behavioral health docket advisory committee before establishing a behavioral health docket program.
- E. Administrative oversight of implementation of the Behavioral Health Docket Act shall be conducted by the Supreme Court of Virginia. The Supreme Court of Virginia shall be responsible for (i) providing oversight of the distribution of funds for behavioral health dockets; (ii) providing technical assistance to behavioral health dockets; (iii) providing training to judges who preside over behavioral health dockets; (iv) providing training to the providers of administrative, case management, and treatment services to behavioral health dockets; and (v) monitoring the completion of evaluations of the effectiveness and efficiency of behavioral health dockets in the Commonwealth.
- F. A state behavioral health docket advisory committee shall be established in the judicial branch. The committee shall be chaired by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, who shall appoint a vice-chair to act in his absence. The membership of the committee shall include a behavioral health circuit court judge, a behavioral health general district court judge, a behavioral health juvenile and domestic relations district court judge, the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court or his designee, the Governor or his designee, and a representative from each of the following entities: the Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Services Council, the Virginia Court Clerks’ Association, the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, the Virginia Organization of Consumers Asserting Leadership, a community services board or behavioral health authority, and a local community-based probation and pretrial services agency.
- G. Each jurisdiction or combination of jurisdictions that intend to establish a behavioral health docket or continue the operation of an existing behavioral health docket shall establish a local behavioral health docket advisory committee. Jurisdictions that establish separate adult and juvenile behavioral health dockets may establish an advisory committee for each such docket. Each local behavioral health docket advisory committee shall ensure quality, efficiency, and fairness in the planning, implementation, and operation of the behavioral health dockets that serve the jurisdiction or combination of jurisdictions. Advisory committee membership may include, but shall not be limited to, the following persons or their designees: (i) the behavioral health docket judge; (ii) the attorney for the Commonwealth or, where applicable, the city or county attorney who has responsibility for the prosecution of misdemeanor offenses; (iii) the public defender or a member of the local criminal defense bar in jurisdictions in which there is no public defender; (iv) the clerk of the court in which the behavioral health docket is located; (v) a representative of the Virginia Department of Corrections or the Department of Juvenile Justice, or both, from the local office that serves the jurisdiction or combination of jurisdictions; (vi) a representative of a local community-based probation and pretrial services agency; (vii) a local law-enforcement officer; (viii) a representative of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services or a representative of local treatment providers, or both; (ix) a representative of the local community services board or behavioral health authority; (x) the behavioral health docket administrator; (xi) a public health official; (xii) the county administrator or city manager; (xiii) a certified peer recovery specialist; and (xiv) any other persons selected by the local behavioral health docket advisory committee.
- H. Each local behavioral health docket advisory committee shall establish criteria for the eligibility and participation of offenders who have been determined to have problems with drug addiction, mental illness, or related issues. The committee shall ensure the use of a comprehensive, valid, and reliable screening instrument to assess whether the individual is a candidate for a behavioral health docket. Once an individual is identified as a candidate appropriate for a behavioral health court docket, a full diagnosis and treatment plan shall be prepared by qualified professionals.
(Note: Here is something that addresses the concerns of legislators that this specialized docket with give people with behavioral health problems “get out of jail free cards.” An experienced Criminal Lawyer Fairfax Virginia will read deep into this law to know that this provision exists.)
Subject to the provisions of this section, neither the establishment of a behavioral health docket nor anything in this section shall be construed as limiting the discretion of the attorney for the Commonwealth to prosecute any criminal case arising therein that he deems advisable to prosecute, except to the extent that the participating attorney for the Commonwealth agrees to do so.
- I. Each local behavioral health docket advisory committee shall establish policies and procedures for the operation of the docket to attain the following goals: (i) effective integration of appropriate treatment services with criminal justice system case processing; (ii) enhanced public safety through intensive offender supervision and treatment; (iii) prompt identification and placement of eligible participants; (iv) efficient access to a continuum of related treatment and rehabilitation services; (v) verified participant abstinence through frequent alcohol and other drug testing and mental health status assessments, where applicable; (vi) prompt response to participants’ noncompliance with program requirements through a coordinated strategy; (vii) ongoing judicial interaction with each behavioral health docket participant; (viii) ongoing monitoring and evaluation of program effectiveness and efficiency; (ix) ongoing interdisciplinary education and training in support of program effectiveness and efficiency; and (x) ongoing collaboration among behavioral health dockets, public agencies, and community-based organizations to enhance program effectiveness and efficiency.
- J. If there is cause for concern that a defendant was experiencing a crisis related to a mental health or substance abuse disorder then his case will be referred, if such referral is appropriate, to a behavioral health docket to determine eligibility for participation. Participation by an offender in a behavioral health docket shall be voluntary and made pursuant only to a written agreement entered into by and between the offender and the Commonwealth with the concurrence of the court.
- K. An offender may be required to contribute to the cost of the treatment he receives while participating in a behavioral health docket pursuant to guidelines developed by the local behavioral health docket advisory committee.
- L. Nothing contained in this section shall confer a right or an expectation of a right to treatment for an offender or be construed as requiring a local behavioral health docket advisory committee to accept for participation every offender.
- M. The Office of the Executive Secretary shall, with the assistance of the state behavioral health docket advisory committee, develop a statewide evaluation model and conduct ongoing evaluations of the effectiveness and efficiency of all behavioral health dockets. The Executive Secretary shall submit an annual report of these evaluations to the General Assembly by December 1 of each year. The annual report shall be submitted as a report document as provided in the procedures of the Division of Legislative Automated Systems for the processing of legislative documents and reports and shall be posted on the General Assembly’s website. Each local behavioral health docket advisory committee shall submit evaluative reports, as provided by the Behavioral/Mental Health Docket Advisory Committee, to the Office of the Executive Secretary as requested.
Nearly every Criminal Lawyer Fairfax Virginia will agree that behavioral health (e.g. mental health) and substance abuse, are the root causes of almost all crime. There are very few “evil” people who want to hurt others or who are so concerned about themselves that they will use other people for their personal gain. Thus, Drug Courts/Dockets and Behavioral Health Courts/Dockets are being created throughout Virginia to assist people with these problems.
For more information contact us at Dave Albo – Attorney today.