Who qualifies for CASA?
The CASA Program is an alternative to traditional prosecution and sentencing that seeks to address some of the primary causes of criminal offenses – substance use disorders, mental health issues, and deficient life-skills. Thus, to qualify for application to CASA, a client must demonstrate that he or she has had an alcohol or drug problem, suffers from a mental health issue (including depression and anxiety disorders), or has deficient life-skills issues (particularly for the younger applicants).
Of particular importance is the applicant’s ability to show how and why any of those issues may have contributed to their alleged offense conduct. For example, did someone engage in the distribution of a controlled substance or in some other offense to help with their addiction, was he or she suffering from an untreated mental health issue, or was a younger client left to fend for themselves without parental guidance or support?
Nonetheless, certain individuals with some of these issues may not be qualified for the CASA Program. This group typically includes:
- Those with more than minor involvement in large scale fraud or drug distribution offenses, or specific acts of violence;
- Involved in child exploitation offenses, including possession or distribution of child pornography;
- Subject to removal by immigration authorities (i.e., lack of status or pending application seeking relief from removal); or
- Where the government is unwilling to set aside a mandatory minimum sentence in order to allow for an applicant’s participation in CASA. You should also note that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has increasingly resisted setting aside a mandatory minimum sentence, even in cases involving aggravated identity theft (18 U.S.C. section 1028A).
CASA applications are considered protected plea negotiations and are covered by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(f) and Federal Rule of Evidence 410. Nonetheless, defense counsel should exercise discretion in disclosing previously unreported issues that the government, pretrial services, and/or the court may deem to be a violation of the client’s conditions of bond. Please consult with FPD-CDCA representatives, should you have any questions.