Against Your Will
Mental health is a prominent topic in our society right now and seems to appear on nearly every newscast on TV, however, very few people know about mental health laws.
For example, a friend, family member, police officer, or even a stranger, can apply to have someone committed to a mental health facility or psychiatric ward.
Here’s what you need to know about involuntary commitments.
Application for Mental Health Warrant
To begin the process of involuntarily committing someone, it must be applied for. Depending on the County, there may be a dedicated office, or the application may be filed through the County Clerk or DA.
The application must state that the applicant has reason to believe, and does believe, that: 1) the person evidences mental illness, 2) the person evidences a substantial risk of serious harm to themselves or others, and 3) the risk of harm is imminent unless immediately restrained.
The application must also provide a specific description of the risk of harm, and state that the applicant’s beliefs are derived from recent behavior, overt acts, or attempts. Finally, the application must also contain detailed descriptions of the behavior; overt acts, or attempts; and describe the relationship between the applicant and the person.
Mental Health Warrant Issuance
The application will be reviewed by a Judge or Magistrate, who may also interview the applicant that must appear in person. The Judge can only issue the Mental Health Warrant if he finds that: 1) the person evidences mental illness, 2) the person evidences a substantial risk of serious harm to himself or others, 3) the risk of harm is imminent unless the person is immediately restrained, and 4) the necessary restraint cannot be accomplished without emergency detention.
At this point, a peace officer will attempt to locate, detain, and transport the person to a mental health facility or psychiatric ward for a preliminary examination.
The Preliminary Examination
Upon being detained, the mental health facility or psychiatric ward that the person is transported to must accept them for a preliminary examination. However, the person cannot be detained in a private facility without the consent of the facility administrator.
A person detained for this examination may continue to be detained for not more than 48 hours. Except, if extremely hazardous weather or a disaster occurs, this time may be extended by 24 hours each day by written order of a judge. A physician must examine the person as soon as possible within 12 hours of the person being detained by a peace officer.
If a written Order for Protective Custody is obtained, then the above 48 hour rule goes out of the window. Although, if this Order is obtained, there are more protections put into place that we will have to discuss another time.
Help, not Punishment
Family members and friends are in the best position to observe changes in mood and behavior. Talking about suicide, delusions, hallucinations, anxiety, and substance abuse could be signs of someone in mental distress. Just remember, this is an opportunity to get someone help and isn’t some form of punishment.
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Civil Litigation Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479