The Mental Health Unit also represents individuals subjected to involuntary placement better known as “the Baker Act.” If a person is deemed to have a mental illness and is a harm to self, others, or self-neglectful, that person could be committed involuntarily to a hospital for examination and treatment for up to 72 hours. If the hospital believes that a person should be kept longer, a petition is filed with the court and a hearing can be held. Our office represents those patients at their hearings to ensure that they are not needlessly held against their will.
The Palm Beach County Adult Drug Court Program is a judicially supervised, pre-trial drug treatment program, which provides substance abuse treatment and education to non-violent, drug involved clients whose primary criminal charge is drug related. The program offers treatment alternatives designed to meet the needs of the client in successfully combating substance abuse and drug addiction issues. The program also provides a supportive client-centered approach to assist clients in living a clean and sober life. All court appearances are at the Gun Club Judicial Complex in West Palm Beach.
There is a single Drug Court Judge. The Public Defender’s Office has one attorney dedicated to handling all qualifying clients.
Drug Court has strict requirements and participation in the program is completely voluntary. Prior to each court appearance, each participant in the program is assessed by the Drug Court treatment team to gauge their progress and make recommendations concerning treatment goals and compliance. Participation in the program requires a minimum one-year commitment, but the length of the program may be extended depending on the individual client’s treatment progress and compliance with drug testing. The program requires the client to participate in group and individual counseling on a regular schedule and submit to random, observed drug testing on a weekly basis. Alcohol Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous (AA/NA) attendance is mandatory while involved in Drug Court. Residential (inpatient) treatment is available and may be required from some participants where the treatment team determines it is necessary.
The client’s compliance with the program requirements and progress in treatment is monitored through regularly scheduled court appearances. Drug Court is an accountability court and sanctions may be imposed by the Judge for noncompliance with treatment or testing requirements. Upon the client’s successful completion of the program, the State will drop the charges.
The Mental Health Specialty Division “T,” is located at the Criminal Justice Complex in West Palm Beach. It was created in 2009 to resolve felony competency cases. There is a single Mental Health Specialty Division Judge. More information regarding Mental Health Court may be found on the 15th Judicial Circuit website at: https://www.15thcircuit.com/services/mental-health
Individuals with mental health needs have unique problems in navigating the criminal justice system. To assist these individuals, the Public Defender’s Office has three attorneys (the “Mental Health Unit”) assigned to handle all qualifying clients in the division. When a client cannot assist her or his attorney in their defense, the Mental Health attorney will request a competency evaluation and represent the client at a competency hearing in Mental Health Court. If the client is declared not competent to proceed to trial, the Mental Health Unit will fight for a proper placement for the client. The Mental Health Unit also represents felony defendants believed not guilty by reason of insanity. The unit includes a licensed social worker and a dedicated legal assistant who aid in the representations of these clients. The Mental Health Unit represents clients charged with a variety of offenses until the completion of their case.
Veterans Court is located at the in the Criminal Justice Complex in West Palm Beach. It is a judicially-monitored program of treatment and rehabilitation services for qualifying veterans. Upon entering Veterans Court, the client will undergo an evaluation for a determination of services needed. Services include treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues, as well as providing housing solutions for the homeless. Most Veterans Court personnel are veterans themselves and the atmosphere is significantly less stressful than typical criminal courtrooms. Many clients are assigned mentors: a volunteer veteran who is available to talk about issues that arise and serve as a helpful spokesperson for the veteran with court personnel. More information regarding Veteran’s Court may be found on the 15th Judicial Circuit website at https://www.15thcircuit.com/services/veterans
There is a single Veterans Court judge. The Public Defender’s Office has one attorney dedicated to handling all qualifying clients in the division. The Veterans Court attorney works to negotiate pre-trial intervention or probation settlements for clients.