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New Law Can Keep Criminals Out Of Jail With Provable Mental Illness

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — There is a major concern over a newly passed bill that could keep murderers out of jail, with no record, if they prove they have a mental disorder that can be treated.

It's a trailer bill, passed inside wide-sweeping budget legislation and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in June, that creates a diversion program for all crimes, including felonies.  District attorneys across the state are worried about its impacts, saying it could open a dangerous door when dealing with serious crimes.

"Things like this kind of hide in there and now it's law," said Yuba County District Attorney Patrick McGrath.

Tucked between dozens of pages of legal language is a new law passed in a budget bill, that could let more criminals off the hook.

"I'm frustrated, I'm frustrated," said McGrath.

AB 1810 creates a plan to keep people charged with any crime — including murder, mass shootings, and fatal DUI's — out of jail, as long as they can prove the crimes were committed because of a diagnosable mental disorder that can be treated.

"So, that would mean anxiety, alcoholism, kleptomania," said McGrath.

The bill was proposed by the California Department of State Hospitals to address a growing wait list of people deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial. McGrath says if a psychological evaluation determines a mental disorder, a person can bypass prison and complete a two-year diversion program.  If successful, criminal charges could be dismissed and records sealed.

"I couldn't imagine how painful that would be for the families of the victims," said Jessica Segoviano.

Segoviano lost her brother to a brutal murder in Rio Linda in 2011.

"That was my only brother. He was my mentor, role model," Segoviano said.

Segoviano says her brother's murderer tried to bring mental health issues into his defense.  Fortunately, she says, unsuccessfully.  The killer was sentenced to 16 years in prison, but Segoviano worries under this new bill, other families won't find any closure.

"The people who do the crime are just going to walk away and just dust it off."

Massive mental health legislation that many fear could jeopardize justice.

"It looks like it's just another way for somebody with a mental problem to escape accountability," said McGrath.

McGrath says he still has a lot of concerns and questions about the bill and will be meeting with the governor's office at the end of the in hopes of getting some answers.

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