Mental Health and Substance Abuse Laws
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services operates under Tennessee State laws and rules. Title 33 is the main law pertaining to mental health and substance abuse services.
Criminal Justice Liaisons
Individuals in the court system who have a mental health and/or substance abuse issue can seek the support of a Criminal Justice Behavioral Health Liaison. This service can prove to be critical for those struggling with behavioral health issues, to ensure they get the help and support they need.
Available Support Services
- Communicating with police agencies
- Assistance at court hearings
- Meetings with incarcerated individuals
- Transitioning from jail to community
- Working with families
Criminal Justice Behavioral Health Liaisons assist individuals in the legal system as a result of their mental health symptoms and/or substance use and promote diversion from jail to meaningful support services and resources in the community.
DiversionJudicial diversion is also referred to as deferred adjudication, and this procedure is governed by state law (Tennessee Code Annotated 40-35-313). Under judicial diversion, the qualified defendant takes a conditional plea and the court finds them not guilty and the sentence is not imposed. Rather, the defendant completes the terms of their probation and pays a monthly fee to the court. Once they have served their probation, they may pay a fee and request that the charges are expunged from their public record. Just as with the pre-trial diversion, if the defendant does not complete their probation, or if they should find themselves in trouble with the law again before their probationary term has expired, the court may enforce the original sentence.
For those of us with criminal histories, recovery can be complicated by our past behaviors before we found our way to wellness. There is a court-ordered process called expungement (also called expunction) where the record of specific incidents can be removed, essentially erased in the eyes of the law. In 2012, a state law went into effect that allows Tennessee residents convicted of certain crimes to be able to have that incident expunged (completely removed) from their records (T.C.A. 40-32-101(g)). Only certain crimes are eligible for expungement: they must be non-violent, non-DUI and non-sexual crimes. Crimes eligible are most misdemeanors and some Class E felonies, including forgery, theft, vandalism, and fraudulent or false insurance claim, among others.
For a full list of crimes eligible and non-eligible, please click the link: 40-32-101 (g) Crimes
Additional stipulations exist for those crimes which qualify:
- The individual must have no other convictions than the one under review, and
- The individual must have completed all terms of his or her sentencing, paid all fines/fees/assessments, and
- At least five years must have elapsed from the completion of the individual’s sentence, and
- The individual must also pay a fee of $280 to the Clerk of the Court.
The full list of requirements is available by clicking the link: 40-32-101 (g) Requirements
If your conviction is among the eligible crimes, and you qualify for the stipulations, you will need to file for expungement in the court in which the matter originated. This may be general session’s court or a trial court, and not all courts operate exactly the same way.
For a step-by-step guide to expungement in Tennessee, click here.
More information on expungement/expunction from the state of Tennessee can be found here.