Mental Health and Criminal Charges

Criminal Defense Lawyer in New Jersey Representing Defendants with Criminal Charges Resulting from Mental Health or Addiction Problems and Issues

Mental-Health-Issues-and-Criminal-Charges Data from the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals that about 10% of prison and jail inmates reported a mental or emotional condition, and 10% said they had stayed overnight in a mental hospital or program. Together, 16% (or an estimated 283,800 inmates as of the time this data was compiled) reported either a mental condition or an overnight stay in a mental hospital, and were identified as mentally ill. Other BJS research reveals the following facts:

  • Nearly a quarter of both State prisoners and local jail inmates who had a mental health problem, compared to a fifth of those without, had served 3 or more prior incarcerations.
  • Female inmates had higher rates of mental health problems than male inmates (State prisons: 73% of females and 55% of males; Federal prisons: 61% of females and 44% of males; local jails: 75% of females and 63% of males).
  • Over 1 in 3 State prisoners, 1 in 4 Federal prisoners, and 1 in 6 (county or local) jail inmates who had a mental health problem had received treatment since admission to the facility housing them.

These facts indicate plainly that there is a correlation between mental illness and involvement in the criminal justice system. Indeed, the experience of Federal and State criminal justice and corrections officials continues to demonstrate that the criminal behavior of a significant number of defendants resulted from an untreated mental health issue, as opposed to an otherwise unspecified desire to violate the law.

If a criminal defendant has a psychiatric or psychological problem, or some other mental health issue, this fact needs to be brought to the attention of the Assistant United States Attorney, Assistant Prosecutor or Assistant District Attorney handling the case. Depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case, such issues may be used to negotiate a more favorable resolution of the charges. Depending upon how this material is presented, a case that might have resulted in a prison sentence because of the severity of the charges could end with a downgrade to a lower-level offense and a term of non-custodial probation. It may also be possible to get the defendant services designed to address their individual needs through the court's probation department. This is particularly true in cases involving defendants with relatively minor criminal records, or those charged with non-violent offenses. However, the presence of mental illness needs to be documented carefully and presented appropriately if it is to be used to posture the case for a favorable result. Finally, the presence of a mental health problem or issue may form the basis for a defense at trial. A New Jersey criminal defense attorney with experience in this area will understand these issues.

New Jersey is also starting to implement a mental health court program. Generally speaking, mental health courts, which are modeled on drug courts, are "problem-solving" courts that target a specific class of criminal defendants with unique issues that cannot be addressed in a conventional criminal court. Some counties also have mental health units within their probation departments. These specialized courts and units are staffed with professionals who are trained to work with defendants with mental illnesses. As of now, not every county criminal court in New Jersey is equipped with mental health courts or units. Criminal defendants charged in counties that are not so equipped will, therefore, be unable to avail themselves of these programs and mechanisms that are designed to address their particular situation. However, the presence of a mental health problem that may have motivated someone to engage in criminal conduct must always be brought to a court's attention, regardless of whether the criminal court in that vicinage has implemented a specific structure to address the needs of these defendants.

We are New Jersey criminal defense lawyers who represent defendants whose criminal conduct may have been motivated by a mental health problem or issue. If you or a member of your family has a criminal charge that arose from mental illness, contact us online or call toll free at 800-361-6554 to learn about your options.

Client Reviews
"I hired Mr. Friedman to represent my son in a criminal matter that could have landed him in jail. Nobody in our family had ever been involved with the criminal justice system before, so this was all very new to us. He was very patient, answered all of our questions, and made sure we understood everything each step of the way. By the time the case was over, my son had a reduced charge for which he only had to pay some fines." Anonymous
"Mr. Friedman represented me when I was one of several students caught with drugs in a college dorm room. I was set to graduate at the end of the semester, and thought this case would ruin my life. He got my charges dismissed, and the record expunged. This lawyer was a total lifesaver!" Anonymous
"Our daughter has mental health issues. She got into a scuffle with the police and was charged with assaulting an officer. Our attorney, Jim Friedman, was able to show the prosecutor and Judge that the real problem here was her mental stability. She was placed on probation and avoided jail time. Most other lawyers we spoke to refused to take this case, but Jim Friedman took it and got us a great result. Thank you Mr. Friedman!" Anonymous
"I had federal criminal charges and felt totally lost. I was one of who knows how many defendants in this case, and I read on the Internet that almost everyone in federal court end up with a prison sentence, so I was really scared. My first lawyer, who told me that I would probably spend at least some time in prison, barely gave me the time of day after I paid him. Then I hired Jim Friedman to represent me. He stayed with me throughout the entire process. He was always available to answer my questions, and never let me lose hope. He negotiated aggressively with the federal prosecutor and I ended up with a short term of probation. I knew I would get convicted of something, but this lawyer kept me out of jail." Anonymous
"The only part of my trial that was better than watching Mr. Friedman question the witnesses was when the jury came out and said “not guilty” over and over again. You have to see this lawyer in court!" Anonymous