Pursuant to Part II, Article 73-a of the New Hampshire Constitution, Supreme Court Rule 51 A(7), and Laws 2002, Chapter 72, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire establishes a mental health court pilot program in the Keene District Court and promulgates the rules set forth in Appendix A to govern the mental health court pilot program. These rules shall be in effect during the course of the pilot program from January 1, 2003, until January 1, 2005.

December 24, 2002

ATTEST: ___________________________________

      Eileen Fox, Clerk of Court
      Supreme Court of New Hampshire


Appendix A


Effective January 1, 2003


Chapter 72 of the Laws of 2002 established a mental health court pilot program in the Keene District Court. The purpose of the program is to maximize cooperation between the mental health treatment system and the criminal justice system. The program is intended to achieve the following outcomes for the mentally ill misdemeanant population through diversion, when warranted, from the criminal justice system to appropriate mental health treatment programs and services:

Faster case processing times

Improved access to public mental health treatment services

Improved well being of identified mentally ill defendants

Reduced recidivism

An important outcome to be achieved for the larger community is improved public safety.


The work of the mental health court task group, comprised of professionals from the legal, mental health and law enforcement disciplines, has been driven by the recognition that the current system for processing misdemeanants with mental illness often does not adequately address the role mental illness plays in the commission of criminal offenses or the role treatment could play in reducing recidivism. Judges have varying levels of expertise on the issue, and even those most enlightened about mental illness do not have a consistent mechanism available to allow them to fashion sentences that address this important contributing factor. As a result, decisions made by the court do not always reach the root of the problem. Mentally ill offenders may cycle through the criminal justice system and face the prospect of time in jail, where there is an even greater limitation to access to mental health services.


Any individual who has been charged with a misdemeanor offense, who presents as mentally ill may be identified as a possible candidate for mental health court. Referrals to the mental health court may come from anyone in the criminal justice system, including the court. The following criteria shall be utilized in determining eligibility for participation in the mental health court:

a. Defendant is charged with a misdemeanor offense; and

b. (1) Defendant manifests obvious signs of mental illness or mental retardation, or; (2) defendant is screened by a mental health expert and determined to be suffering from mental illness, dual diagnosis, or developmental disability for which the defendant is in need of treatment, and which, unless treated, is likely to contribute to future criminal activity.

Acceptance into the mental health court program is voluntary, therefore, the defendant must also agree to the following:

Plead guilty to the facts and opt for sentencing set out by the court. Such sentence may include further mental health evaluation and treatment.

Waiver of speedy trial rights where appropriate.

Release of confidential information to the court and related mental health court providers and prosecutors.



A. At arraignment, the court will formally advise the defendant of the charge(s) and make inquiry about counsel. Where the court determines that counsel is necessary to assist the defendant in understanding the proceedings, the court may continue the case so that the defendant may appear with the benefit of counsel.

B. Defendants who are identified as possible candidates for this program will be scheduled on the court docket for a further pre-trial hearing date on which the Court liaison/Case manager will be present in court.

C. A defendant who is competent and who may qualify as meeting the criteria for mental illness will be given the opportunity to meet with the Court liaison/Case manager at arraignment or at the further pre-trial hearing. If appropriate, and with the advice of counsel, the defendant will have the opportunity to elect to be considered for the program and its evaluation and treatment alternatives. Any necessary release of information forms will be completed and signed at this time to allow inter-agency communication on the defendant’s behalf.


A. General

At arraignment, the court will make a determination as to the defendant’s pretrial status pursuant to RSA 597:1. The court will consider the safety of the community and the defendant, as well as the risk of flight of the defendant when determining whether the defendant will be released or detained pending further hearing.

B. Defendant Released on Own Recognizance

If the court decides to release the defendant upon his/her own recognizance, the court will set conditions designed to ensure the safety of the community and the defendant. The purpose of bail is to ensure the defendant’s appearance at future hearings and to address safety concerns. As such, conditions setting out long term treatment plans are not likely at this stage in the process.

C. Cash Bail – Defendant Unable to Post Bail and Incarcerated

If the court sets cash bail that the defendant is unable to post, the defendant will be housed at the Cheshire County House of Corrections. While there the defendant will be subject to the policies and procedures of the Corrections department that support mental health assessment and care of defendants.


In the event that the defendant is deemed to be incompetent, the court cannot proceed with the case and cannot order the defendant to engage in treatment. If a defendant is found to be incompetent following a competency evaluation, the case may end; however, if the evaluation indicates that the defendant may be restored to competence, the court shall proceed in accordance with RSA 135:17-a.


Should the defendant, with the assistance of counsel and the involvement of the Court liaison/Case manager, choose to enter a guilty plea or a plea of "no contest" the case will proceed to sentencing. Counsel for the defendant will consult with the prosecutor and, using the recommendations of the Court liaison, present an alternative disposition to the court for review and acceptance.

Before making a sentence recommendation the Court liaison will at a minimum review the following information:

Court records

Treatment related records

History of similar behavior

Previous attempts to seek help or treatment

Willingness and motivation to seek appropriate treatment now

The Court liaison will participate in the defendant’s sentencing hearing and share with the court the defendant’s needs with regard to mental illness, motivation for treatment and community resources or services that may be helpful to the defendant. If the defendant is in agreement, the judge will in the exercise of sound discretion incorporate so much of the recommendations as deemed appropriate into court’s orders.


If mental health treatment has been recommended, the court may order: a) that the defendant engage in counseling or treatment. b) As an inducement to comply with this order, a period of incarceration or fine, deferred or suspended, may be imposed.


The court may schedule a review hearing to check compliance with the original order. The Court liaison is responsible for obtaining and presenting a report from the designated treatment provider at any such review hearing. Additional periodic reviews may be scheduled to ensure that the defendant remains in compliance and treatment.

It is the responsibility of the Court liaison to monitor compliance through periodic communication with the designated treatment providers and through direct monitoring/meetings with the defendant.