Tuesday, April 20, 2021

People v. Braden (Cal. Ct. App. - April 20, 2021)

The California Supreme Court should obviously grant review of this opinion.

It's not that Justice Raphael's opinion is necessarily wrong.  It's not.  He holds that if a defendant wants to request pretrial mental health diversion, she's got to do so before the trial starts, not (as here) after the verdict but prior to sentencing.  Otherwise, he says, defendants could "game" the system by only asking for diversion after trying their hand at an acquittal.

Maybe that's right.  It certainly does waste some time to have a trial if we're just going to grant diversion anyway and dismiss the case.

But maybe it's wrong.  Maybe it's just like like imposing a suspended sentence.  And, in any event, maybe we're okay with defendants saying that they're innocent -- say, asserting that they didn't have the required means rea for the offense -- but also saying that, if they're guilty, it's nonetheless due to their mental health problems and hence qualify for diversion.

Regardless, a prior opinion of the Court of Appeal held that pretrial diversion could be requested after trial, and today's opinion says it can't.  That's a straightforward conflict, and on an issue that recurs in innumerable cases.  So the California Supreme Court has to figure out the right rule.

As soon as possible.