Mental health issues have gained a lot of statewide and national attention and courts around the world are implementing problem-solving courts for mentally ill criminal defendants to avoid jail time in lieu of treatment. Mental Health Court is one of nine Problem-Solving Courts (PSCs) operating in the Fourth Judicial Circuit designed to help individuals achieve stability, learn how to live with their mental illness, learn how to live without illegal drugs, restore your life, and restore your family. The purpose of MHC is to offer a treatment-focused alternative to incarceration for persons suffering from chronic and persistent mental illness or co-occurring disorders. MHC seeks to address the cause for the criminal behavior that brought about the pending charges, whether due to noncompliance with medication, lack of accessibility to services, loss or lack of benefits, etc


overview of mental health court

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The Duval County Mental Health Court Program is a court-supervised, comprehensive treatment program for nonviolent defendants. This is a program which includes regular court appearances before a designated judge, intensive individual, group, or residential mental health or mental health and substance abuse treatment, random observed drug and alcohol testing, regular attendance at 12-step/sober-support meetings (Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, Rational Recovery, etc.) and mental health support meetings, and participation in pro-social events. The MHC Program is a combined effort of the State Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, Court Administration, the Department of Corrections/Law Enforcement, and Community Treatment Providers. You will be assisted with obtaining social security benefits (if eligible), assistance with the assignment of a financial payee, educational and skills assessments, and will be provided with referrals for vocational training, educational program and/or job placement services as well as transitional/halfway housing or placement into an assisted living facility.

The program length, determined by your individual progress will be no less than one year (12 months). However, the time period may be extended if necessary to successfully complete and graduate from MHC. Following arrest, if determined to be eligible, you may be offered a choice between MHC and prosecution by the State of Florida for the pending charges. Eligibility for acceptance into the program shall be made upon determination that you meet the established clinical, legal, and suitability requirements for MHC as determined by the MHC team. The MHC team consists of the presiding judge, state attorney, defense counsel, mental health court coordinator, case managers, probation officer/law enforcement, and community treatment providers. Upon approval for program entry, you will be instructed to report for your first MHC status hearing. Electing to enter MHC at this stage is of your choosing and is completely voluntary. However, once you enter MHC you may not elect to voluntarily withdraw. If you are placed into MHC as a condition of a sentence (condition of probation), then you have been offered the chance to avoid prison, and again, cannot voluntarily withdraw from the program. In either event, a representative from the State Attorney’s Office will discuss the MHC program with you and a Public Defender or your private legal counsel will advise you of your options before you sign the participation agreement. Once you have entered the MHC program and exhausted your two (2) week orientation phase, only the presiding judge can terminate your participation. This condition exists for a very specific reason: to protect you from running away when/if the going gets tough. If staying compliant with your medications and/or quitting drugs or alcohol and restoring/re-building your life and family were easy, you wouldn’t need to be in MHC.


Eligibility for Mental Health Court is not always clear-cut, which is why we encourage those who might qualify to work with the Ashley Goggins Law, P.A. to review whether they qualify and then take appropriate action.

Note: DUIs do not qualify for Mental Health Court programs.

There are three eligibility criteria for Mental Health Court:

(1) The defendant must pass a mental health assessment. To pass, a licensed mental health professional must determine that the defendant’s mental illness likely led to the criminal conduct and that he will likely be responsive and compliant to treatment;

(2) The defendant’s charges are suitable for Mental Health Court according to the new Administrative Order; and


(3) The defendant must voluntarily enter into the Mental Health Court program.

Referrals may come from anyone - the Judge, the State Attorney, the Defense Attorney, a Probation Officer, the Arresting Officer, Jail Staff, a pastor or counselor, a treatment provider, a family member or employer, or the defendant himself/herself.

  1. Once identified, the Defendant is screened by a mental health specialist to determine if they are clinically appropriate for the program.

  2. If clinically appropriate, the State Attorney determines whether the Defendant is legally appropriate for an opportunity in MHC, and if so, under what terms.

  3. Once approved, the Defendant, the Defendant's attorney and State Attorney all sign a contract agreeing to the specific conditions of the Defendant's opportunity in MHC.

  4. Upon signing the contract, the Defendant enters a plea/admission according to the terms negotiated between the State Attorney and the Defendant's attorney.

  5. Participants are required to submit to appropriate evaluations for treatment and to follow all treatment recommendations, in addition to any other probation terms.

  6. Each Participant's progress is monitored and discussed weekly by the MHC Team in conjunction with the Participant's regular appearances in court.

  7. The Team has discretion to award incentives for progress, and to impose sanctions for infractions. Serious infractions may result in a Violation of Probation and/or termination from MHC.

Attorney Goggins can help determine if you qualify for Mental Health Court and can help you navigate the system. Contact us at 904-903-4522 for assistance.

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Find Out if Your Case Qualifies for Mental Health Court

Getting your case transferred to Mental Health Court can not only keep you from going to jail, but it gives you access to treatment and the chance to improve your life.

Eligible defendants will get access to:

  • Mental health evaluations

  • Visits with a psychiatrist

  • Individual and group counseling

  • Medication

  • Other appropriate therapy

To find out if your mental health condition and criminal case might qualify for transfer to Mental Health Court call Ashley Goggins Law, P.A. and speak to a member of ou It is important to enlist the help of our criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible to ensure your case is handled correctly and does not fall through the cracks. Contact us today at 904-903-4522 for a free consultation.