By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Texas law does provide an avenue for the mentally ill to get out of jail without having to pay a bond. Not everyone who suffers from mental illness is entitled to relief under Texas law. As you might expect, Texas law lags in different areas for various reasons.
Mental Health Bonds
Tex.Code.Crim.P. 17.032 allows for a mental health bond. The judge is required to let the person get out of jail for free — i.e. not have to pay a bond amount — provided they comply with the statute.
Here are the qualifications for a Mental Health Bond:
- They cannot be charged with a violent offense;
- They cannot have been previously convicted of a violent offense;
- They must be examined by mental health personnel with the County;
- The report by the County must conclude –
- Defendant suffers from mental illness or intellectual disability;
- Defendant is otherwise legally competent to stand trial;
- Defendant is recommended to receive mental health treatment or treatment for the intellectual disability;
- The Judge must also find the county is capable of treatment.
If all of these criterion are met, then the Judge is required to release Defendant. Typically a treatment plan is implemented which may include in-patient or outpatient services along with a host of other requirements the person must comply with.
Shortcomings of the Mental Health PR Bond Statute
The statute isn’t perfect. Many counties don’t have the infrastructure or ability to treat the mentally ill – so a person can actually be kept in jail because their county is unable to treat them.
Also, the mental health release provision allows people in a certain “box” or range of mental illness too — if a person is mentally ill, yet not so deteriorated they are legally incompetent for trial — then they qualify for the bond. If they are too mentally ill, then they don’t qualify.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is designated as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters.