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Ohio Domestic Violence

Requiring a Mental Health Assessment as a Condition of Bond

 

Some courts will require a mental health assessment prior to allowing the release of a person arrested for domestic violence.  It does not matter that the person was never arrested in their life, has no mental health history or exhibits no indication of problem regarding mental health.  The judge wants the assessment and the judge will get it or the defendant will not be released from jail.

Who does the assessment

Often, the county Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, the ADAMHS board will define who will do this.  In Cuyahoga County a county contractor, Mobile Crisis, assigns a worker who comes to the jail.  The judge wants the county contractor to do the assessment.  The judge does not want the defendant providing his or her own provider.

Problem One

My experience has shown these workers, while licensed for social work, are typically very young, very inexperienced, are working under awful conditions for terrible wages.  This person is rarely the person my client would choose to assess his or her situation.

These contractors do great work when confronted with a person exhibiting a mental health emergency.  They quickly assess and just as quickly get these people in crisis the help they need.  Bravo!  However, using a social worker to provide a diagnosis in the absence of any issue presents an entirely different situation.

Problem Two

The report from the social worker then goes to the judge.  The report done by the person listed under "Problem One" becomes the facts of the case.  The judge now has the social worker's take on what happened.

Problem Three

As reported in "Problem One", if this very young, very inexperienced social worker gets it wrong; if there is an improper diagnosis, then rehabilitating the judge may become impossible.  The defendant may be forced into preparing for a jury trial that was otherwise unnecessary.

Problem Four

Getting a copy of the report the judge read is not often possible.  I have to guess what the social worker diagnosed.  I will always assume and prepare for the worst.

Problem Five

Good people, who have been good for twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more years may suddenly find themselves in jail for one, two, three or more days.  The first time this happens is a traumatic experience.  A normal person has no coping skills for that level of trauma.  A normal person has never prepared themselves for jail.  A normal person will not act normal in jail.  It just does not happen.  Doing a mental health assessment on a person who is in jail for the first time in their life, and may have been there for two or more days, involves significantly different issues than if that assessment is done two weeks after they leave jail.

Response

Unless I can get a copy of the written assessment I will almost always demand my client get a mental heath assessment by a provider of their choice.  I will require that assessor release a written report to me prior to the first pretrial.  I will subpoena any reports from any social worker having contact with the client before our assessment.

Am I guilty until proven innocent?

When a judge refuses to release a person with no indication of mental illness unless a social worker diagnoses the defendant, the defendant may feel that they are guilty until proven innocent.  The judge will justify the reason for the assessment as public safety.  The judge has a right to do that.

 

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