Posted by: Criminal Attorneys at Alcock & Associates

Criminal Defense Lawyer Nick Alcock has represented thousands of people charged with criminal offenses throughout Arizona. He says, “One constant issue is the mental health of my clients. I have seen virtually every psychiatric condition, and I have seen how the criminal system struggles with their treatment. It really is a disaster.”

Unfortunately in Arizona, criminal defense attorneys have restricted options when it comes to handling cases involving the mentally ill. Alcock states, “The common response to dealing with a mentally ill criminal defendant is to send them to a psychiatrist for a Rule 11 competency hearing. Unfortunately these hearings are designed to look for two things: whether or not the defendant can assist their counsel in preparing their defense and whether or not the defendant can appreciate the criminal nature of their conduct. This, in my estimation, is really a ridiculous test. There are so many people that are obviously extremely mentally ill who can “pass” a Rule 11 evaluation. Once they to “pass the test,” they get sent back down to the normal court system and their case resumes.”

The Maricopa County Attorneys Office will look at a defendant’s mental health history, but criminal lawyers rarely see the mentally ill receive more favorable plea offers. Alcock states, “It seems that the prosecutors are mainly focused on whether or not the evidence against a defendant is strong. So many defendants have significant mental health problems that the prosecutors seem to see it as par for the course. Obviously there are prosecutors who care about justice, but the mental health crisis that is facing the jail system makes it quite difficult.”

So what to do if a defendant is struggling with mental health issues. First, make sure that the medical records are obtained to prove that the condition is real. Second, a professional evaluation may be necessary to look for possible conditions that are undiagnosed. Third, a good defense attorney should file a deviation request with the prosecution. This deviation request is really a letter that carefully spells out what the defendant suffers from, and how that condition impacted the defendant’s actions that led to their arrest.

If you would like to speak with a criminal defense attorney about a criminal matter, please feel free to contact the law firm of Alcock & Associates. They offer free consultations over the phone or in person. You can also check out their website at Their phone number is 602-989-5000.

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