Doctor accused of ‘purposely’ driving family off cliff asks for mental health treatment instead of prison

The California doctor who allegedly attempted to kill his family by driving his Tesla off Pacific Coast Highway is asking for a mental health diversion to avoid being sentenced to prison, reports say.

Pasadena resident Dharmesh Patel, 41, was charged with three counts of first-degree attempted murder in May. Patel pled not guilty to the charges in February. 

Patel was the driver of a Tesla that plunged off Devil's Slide near California Highway 1 on January 3. Patel, his wife, his 4-year-old son and his 7-year-old daughter all survived the crash. 

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The suspect's lawyers have asked for a mental health diversion because of Patel's major depressive disorder (MDD) diagnosis, according to KRON 4.

To be eligible for the program, a suspect's mental disorder would need to be a "significant factor" in the criminal act, California law says. If participants successfully complete treatment within the diversion program, their charges could be dropped and their arrest could be expunged. 

Murder and voluntary manslaughter suspects are excluded from the diversion program, but attempted murder is not explicitly ruled out. After the program is complete, the court decides if the previous charges would be reinstated.

Patel's wife maintains that her husband told his family he was going to drive off the cliff before the incident. The suspect claimed his Tesla Model Y was having tire issues when he drove off the 250-foot cliff.

"He drove off. He’s depressed," Neha Patel said in an affidavit obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. "He’s a doctor. He said he was going to drive off the cliff. He purposely drove off."

First responders extracted everyone from the mangled Tesla using hydraulic rescue tools, or "jaws of life" tools.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Pasadena doctor accused of intentionally driving Tesla with family inside off cliff faces murder charges

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe previously told Fox News Digital that everyone in the vehicle needed to be pulled from the car's windows. The boy was not injured, while Patel's daughter sustained serious injuries but recovered quickly.

Neha "suffered probably the most serious injuries," Wagstaffe explained.

Patel's eligibility for the mental health diversion will be decided at the end of July.

Fox News Digital's Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.

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