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New CA Law: Mental Health Diversion Defendants Required to Relinquish Firearms

People convicted of certain crimes in California are prohibited from owning or possessing guns, and now there’s a new CA law: mental health diversion defendants required to relinquish firearms.

California laws governing control of deadly weapons, including firearms, are found in Part 6 of the Penal Code, beginning at section 16000. The new law — Assembly Bill 455 (AB 455) — makes amendments to the Penal Code regarding possession of firearms.

Specifically, as explained by California Courts Newsroom, “Defendants participating in mental health diversion will no longer be able to own or possess firearms, if ordered by the court under AB 455.”

AB 455 goes into effect on July 1, 2024.

What is Mental Health Diversion?

Mental health diversion allows defendants with mental illness to get mental health treatment in lieu of incarceration when they have committed specific crimes.

According to the Judges’ Guide to Mental Health Diversion published by National Center for State Courts, “Courts and communities are increasingly looking to design and implement diversion strategies that identify those individuals who can and should be steered away from the criminal justice system, and toward appropriate treatment.”

Mental health diversion is meant to help achieve public safety goals like reduced time spent in jail, reduced arrests, fewer victims, and reduced violence.

A defendant may not be placed into a diversion program for the following charges, among others:

  • Murder or voluntary manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Lewd or lascivious act on a child under 14 years of age
  • Assault with intent to commit rape, sodomy, or oral copulation
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child

Diversion can be assigned either pre-plea or post-plea.

Possession and Relinquishment of Firearms Prior to AB 455

Prior to Assembly Bill 455 taking effect, existing law prohibits the following people from possessing or receiving a firearm:

  • A person who has been convicted of a felony offense or a specified misdemeanor domestic violence offense.
  • A person who has been convicted of specified misdemeanor offenses within the previous 10 years.
  • A person who has been taken into custody because that person is a danger to themselves or others, or who has been certified for intensive treatment due to a mental disorder or mental illness.
  • A person who has been placed under conservatorship by a court.
  • A person who has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial.
  • A person who has been found not guilty of specified crimes due to reason of insanity.
  • A person who has been adjudicated by a court to be a danger to others as a result of a mental disorder or mental illness.
  • A person who has been adjudicated to be a mentally disordered sex offender.

Under existing law, a court can grant a pretrial mental health diversion to a defendant suffering from a mental disorder, on an accusatory pleading alleging the commission of a misdemeanor or felony offense. The diversion can be no longer than 2 years, and it is granted to allow the defendant to undergo mental health treatment.

How AB 455 Changes Possession and Relinquishment of Firearms for Mental Health Diversion Defendants

After July 1, 2024, when AB 455 goes into effect, the prosecution will be able to request that the court prohibit a pretrial mental health diversion defendant from owning or possessing a firearm because they are a danger to themselves or others.

The defendant would be legally unable to possess a firearm until they successfully complete diversion or their firearm rights are restored, as specified.

Does AB 455 Affect You?

If you or someone you know is eligible for a mental health diversion and granted one, your rights to own or possess a firearm may be affected under AB 455.

The best way to determine how AB 455 may affect you is to consult with a criminal defense attorney about your specific case.

If you’ve been arrested or accused of a crime and think AB 455 may apply to you, call 559-691-6222 or click here to request a free consultation. We’ll get back to you right away.

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