Mental Health Law

Mental health and the criminal justice system are intertwined in many ways. Unfortunately, many of the cases we see involve a Defendant with some sort of mental health issue. Many of these issues go untreated because of the cost and difficulty of addressing them. In this blog, we discuss the options a Defendant has if they are dealing with mental health issues, procedures that we can use as attorneys to get a defendant the help they need, and other general information that someone going through this process needs to know. This blog provides introductory information regarding the topic; however, we strongly recommend consulting with an attorney experienced in Mental Health Law to fully evaluate and discuss the specifics of your case.

Mental Health Systems

Often families believe that the criminal justice system seeks to resolve the mental health-related issues of the accused. However, the aim of Texas's Department of Criminal Justice and NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Health in Texas) is to "improve the quality of life for all individuals living with mental illness and their families," not offer a cure-all. This is important to remember throughout the process because although a Defendant might be eligible for alternative punishments and arrangements to address mental health issues, the goal from the State's point of view is to keep the community safe, and they do not always recognize that fixing the root cause of a Defendant's behavior is the best way to do that. On the other hand, there are civil remedies that seek to address people's mental health issues that are truly focused on ensuring that a person gets the help they need.

Civil Mental Health Commitments

Civil mental health commitment aims to ensure individuals within the State receive proper care and support by focusing on therapy options, interventions, and rehabilitation attempts rather than punishment. Commitment in Texas by civil means may be voluntary, where individuals willingly submit themselves to treatment by signing a power of attorney document, which grants a designated person decision-making authority on their behalf. There are also involuntary commitments initiated by family members or mental health professionals who provide sufficient evidence to support that a person poses a danger to themselves or others due to mental illness. Involuntary civil mental health commitments involve a legal proceeding with a judge to determine if specific criteria are met that allow the State to keep someone committed against their will.

Criminal Mental Health Commitments

Criminal mental health commitments involve the Texas Criminal Justice System when an individual suffering from mental illness is accused of a crime. Due to the nature and severity of such issues, they may be considered during both legal proceedings and sentencing. This provides the potential for alternatives in rehabilitation and therapeutic support rather than extended incarceration - which often exacerbates mental health issues. In Texas's criminal justice system, though accused individuals must follow the same legal process of any other person charged with a crime, including arrest, legal proceedings, and sentencing, issues relating to the status of one's mental health can be used to impact the outcome of the case. However, the standard for establishing that mental health treatment is the correct option over normal punishment can be difficult to prove. That is why it is vital to hire an experienced attorney to deal with these issues so that they can convince the Prosecutor and Judge that treatment is the best option.

Competency vs. Insanity

A common misunderstanding that people have is that a Defendant will be deemed incompetent if they are dealing with mental health issues. In reality, the bar is extremely high for someone to be considered incompetent, and most mental health issues do not rise to that level. Another common misconception is that someone who commits a crime while going through a mental health episode will be found not guilty by the "Insanity Defense." Although this is possible, the mental state that someone is in must be so severe that it does not allow them to understand what they were doing or have the requisite intent to commit a crime when the offense was committed.

Before legal proceedings, competency evaluations are often utilized to closely observe a Defendant's understanding of their charges, possible consequences, and their ability to consult with an attorney. Various sources, including attorneys or court members may raise issues relating to a client's competency and request a qualified expert to examine the Defendant. Even if the court finds the individual competent to stand trial, mental health may be considered to mitigate the range of punishment for the Defendant.

The "Insanity Defense" relates to the idea that, due to mental illness, a Defendant could not accurately distinguish right from wrong when the offense was committed or lacked the required intent needed to be guilty of a crime. This requires that a Defendant present sufficient evidence to demonstrate that they meet the legal criteria for insanity, and if found NGRI (Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity), the Defendant may be committed to a mental health facility.

Even if individuals are found fit to stand trial, mental health issues can be considered a mitigating circumstance that affects the sentencing they will receive. During sentencing, the defense may present an individual's mental health issues to the court, including history, impact on daily life, and actions to suggest that rehabilitation and treatment will be more impactful than punishment. These options may include diversion programs, treatment-focused probationary periods, or referrals to mental health courts, which focus on treatment and support rather than punitive sentencing measures.

Diversion Statutes

In Texas, multiple diversion statutes address individuals dealing with mental health issues when they encounter the Criminal Justice System. These programs aim to divert Defendants from incarceration and to provide treatment options and support instead.

Pre-Arrest Diversion (PAD)

Within Texas, some jurisdictions allow law enforcement agencies to divert individuals with mental health issues to treatment facilities instead of jail. These programs involve multiple entities, including mental health professionals, law enforcement agencies, and various rehabilitative organizations.


Counties in Texas commonly offer specialized jail diversion programs to identify individuals with mental health concerns at arrest or during incarceration. These diversion programs provide multiple methods of screening, assessment, and management to support community-based treatment options. 'MHTUs' (Mental Health Treatment Units) also allow individuals suffering from mental health issues to receive specialized care in a structured environment to address their unique circumstances.

Other Diversion Statutes

Texas has mental health courts that primarily focus on helping individuals with mental health issues through alternative means of prosecution for treatment and support, and provide 'CIT' programs (Crisis Intervention Teams) to facilitate safer interactions from law enforcement responses for such individuals.

Mental Health Personal Recognizance Bonds

Personal Recognizance Bonds allow a Defendant to be released from custody without having to pay anything if they follow the conditions that a Judge sets. Mental Health Personal Recognizance Bonds are more in-depth than normal PR bonds and require a mental health screening and a thorough plan that a Defendant must follow to address their mental health needs if released. Article 17.032 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, 'Mental Health Personal Recognizance Bonds' addresses the screening of defendants for potential mental health issues and their conditional release for treatment. If the mental health screening shows that a Defendant suffers from mental illness and would be better suited getting treatment rather than being incarcerated, they will typically release them. However, to be eligible for this type of release, the Defendant must not be accused of or have a history of committing violent crimes. This is one of the most effective tools a defense attorney can use to help a Defendant with mental health issues because it allows them to be released and start addressing their problems instead of sitting in jail and waiting for their case to be dealt with, which can often take months to resolve.

Mental Health Treatment While in Jail

Mental health treatment while in county jail involves specific practices and services that can differ depending on the county's jurisdiction within the State. Collin County specifically offers options for both medication management and counseling for individuals suffering from mental health-related issues. In Collin County, multiple aspects of medical management are available to inmates. Specifically, all inmates have access to medical care, including an experienced mental health staff, and they will provide medications to inmates if they have a valid prescription for it. Prescription medications can also be brought to the Detention Facility for an inmate currently in custody by friends or family, but they must go through a verification process to be accepted. However, the medical department is not obliged to answer any medical questions that family members or friends have about a patient in custody at a detention facility due to HIPAA rules and regulations. For more information relating to medication management for inmates in the State of Texas, you may consult with each county's official website, and for Collin County, a list of in-depth FAQs may be found at

The 'Mental Health Managed Counsel Program' within Collin County is a unique advocacy program designed to keep the mentally ill out of the criminal justice system through proper treatment and care. The program is specifically tailored to manage criminal cases against defendants with mental illness to reduce the odds of re-arrest. With approximately one out of four inmates booked into the county jail each year having some type of mental illness, it is essential to provide an opportunity to avoid repeated offenses and jailing in the criminal justice system. Measures used in Collin County and others throughout the State include mental health assistance programs and counseling opportunities through a cooperative network of law enforcement and local mental health providers. For more information relating to counseling within Collin County, you can visit

Mental Health-Related Bond and Probation Conditions

Within Texas, mental health-related bond conditions and probationary terms can be ordered by a Judge to address the specific needs of individuals suffering from mental health-related concerns. When determining conditions for pretrial release on bond, judges may consider an individual's mental health and impose conditions relating to those needs and concerns. These conditions may include requirements to attend counseling, ensure prescribed medications are being administered and taken, and require participation in other mental health-related services. However, the specific conditions set by the court depend on the type of case and the specific mental needs of the individual. In circumstances where a Defendant with mental illness is placed on probation, a Judge may impose conditions such as counseling, participation in treatment programs, the administration of prescribed medication, and (as in all probationary periods) the requirement of regular visits with a probation officer to monitor compliance. While ensuring individuals comply with the terms of their probation is the primary focus of these conditions, providing the necessary support and treatment to address mental health concerns allows a greater opportunity for rehabilitation for individuals throughout the State.

LifePath Systems (Collin County) and Metrocare (Dallas)

LifePath Systems and Metrocare are local examples of entities that provide services and support for individuals suffering from mental health concerns. Overall, their objective works toward improving the quality of life of Defendants with mental health issues.

LifePath Systems

This organization involves behavioral health and serves as the LMHA (Local Mental Health Authority) for Collin County. LifePath provides a range of services to individuals of all ages, such as psychiatric evaluation, therapy, crisis intervention, and medication management to promote recovery and the overall well-being of individuals within the county dealing with mental health-related concerns. For more information, visit


This non-profit organization is the largest provider of mental health-related services in North Texas and serves as the LMHA for Dallas County. Like LifePath, this organization provides therapy services, crisis intervention, case management, housing assistance, and other supportive services for those suffering from mental illness. For more information, visit

The relationship between mental health and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is complex and multifaceted, requiring ongoing adjustments and collaboration to ensure the effective administration of justice while promoting the rehabilitation of individuals suffering from mental health-related concerns. Therefore, it is essential to meet with an experienced attorney to evaluate and fully discuss your case's unique circumstances. McDaniel Law Group has extensive experience and expertise in Mental health-related law and the drive to help people accused of crimes who need mental health treatment. Our commitment to excellence sets us apart and makes us the right choice for any of your legal needs. For more information, please fill out a contact form on our website or call (469)-960-4067 to speak to our firm or schedule a consultation today.