Superior Court >Probate And Mental Health

Comprehensive Mental Health Court


"Integrating community resources to meet the unique needs of persons with mental illness in the court system thereby enhancing community safety."

The Comprehensive Mental Health Court was developed in response to the growing number of serious mentally ill people coming into contact with the criminal justice system. The focus of the Comprehensive Mental Health Court is to identify those eligible for treatment, work collaboratively with service agencies to provide treatment and services, and oversee compliance with treatment orders. This approach avoids additional civil commitments and arrests and reduces the costs associated with incarceration.


Pre-Screen Evaluations - when a defendant has committed a misdemeanor, defense may decide to motion the court for a prescreen evaluation. A screening DOES NOT determine competency, but whether more evaluation is needed. Once a prescreen is ordered, it is faxed to the Forensic Services Unit of the Comprehensive Mental Health Court (CMHC)

Order received:
  • In custody
  • Out of custody
  • Order
  • Psychiatric evaluation sheet
  • Complaint
  • Police report
There are two possible outcomes from the pre-screen report:
  • NO further evaluation is needed- case returns to originating court OR
  • Further evaluation is needed, in which case, the case is returned to the originating court for the judge to decide if they will order a full rule.


The Forensics Services Division of the Superior Court receives criminal cases which have defendants who may need to be evaluated for competency. The Court will order that two doctors conduct a psychological evaluation of the defendant. The doctors will determine whether the defendant is competent to be adjudicated.
  • If the defendant is found competent, he/she is remanded back to the trial court for adjudication
  • If the defendant is in-custody and found to be incompetent and restorable, he/she is sent to Correctional Health Services Restoration to Competency (RTC) program to receive treatment. Once the defendant is restored to competency, he/she is remanded back to the trial court to be adjudicated
  • If the defendant is out-of-custody and found to be incompetent and restorable, he/she is ordered to participate in an Outpatient Treatment Program which will be monitored by a contracted psychiatrist and/or psychologist. Once the defendant is restored to competency, he/she is remanded back to the trial court to be adjudicated

In the event that a defendant (in-custody OR out-of-custody) is still considered as incompetent yet not restorable within the statutory time limits, he/she may meet the criteria for civil commitment. The County Attorney's office has 24-48 hours to file a civil commitment petition. The defendant is transported to Desert Vista Behavioral Health Center for evaluation and treatment. The criminal charges are dismissed upon the defendant arriving at Desert Vista either by Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) or by self-surrenders.

Rule 11 Flowchart


Civil Commitment Proceedings Overview: Mental Health Civil Commitment cases pursuant to Title 36 occur at Desert Vista Behavioral Health Center and Arizona State Hospital (ASH). These proceedings include Court ordered evaluation (COE) hearings, Court ordered treatment (COT) hearings, and status review hearings on all COT cases. Additional proceedings at the ASH include Guilty Except for Insanity (GEI) hearings under the jurisdiction of the Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB).

If a mentally ill individual does not wish to seek treatment or wishes to terminate treatment against medical advice, the individual may find oneself in court, going through a process designed to provide treatment pursuant to a court order. The Court may order that the person be committed to a suitable treatment facility. The length of the Order for Treatment will not exceed one year and the patient is entitled to a period of mandatory local treatment for at least 25 days at one of several mental health treatment agencies. Prior to such process, the Court must find that the person, as a result of a mental disorder, meets at least one of the following four criteria:

  1. is a danger to him/herself
  2. is a danger to others
  3. is persistently or acutely disabled
  4. is gravely disabled

If the Court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the patient is suffering a mental disorder and meets one or more of the four criteria, the Court will enter an Order for Treatment. The length and terms will vary. Once the court ordered treatment expires, the patient may be unconditionally released by the treating agency. If further in-patient treatment is indicated, the patient must be re-petitioned to repeat the process outlined above. Due to the chronic nature of many mental illnesses, patients do not always stay in treatment or even improve. Such is the "revolving door" stereotype of the mental health treatment system.


The Seriously Mentally Ill (SMI)-Probation Violation Court was established to monitor and treat the seriously mentally ill. The goal of the Court is to problem solve collaboratively with treatment providers and offer tools (review hearings, Mental Health Court contracts, etc.) to increase the probability of success for a SMI defendant on probation. Whenever possible, the Court offers the potential for SMI defendants to earn misdemeanors and expedite release from custody (when appropriate) directly to treatment as approved by the Adult Probation Department and the Regional Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA).

TITLES 14, 36

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