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Involuntary Commitment of an Individual

Involuntary commitment of an individual occurs when the individual is ordered to a treatment facility or hospital to prevent them from harming themselves or others. In order for one to be confined against their wishes they must be mentally ill, under the influence of an intoxicant or narcotic, or a danger to themselves of others. Some examples of an individual being a danger to themselves include:

  • Lack of self-control.
  • Lack of reasonable judgment and discretion.
  • Unable to care for oneself.
  • Suicide or life threatening attempts.
  • Previous occurrences of dangerous behavior.

The Process

Involuntary commitment requires a legal action. Any person who believes that the individual should be committed is permitted to appear before a judge or magistrate and file a petition for an individual's commitment. The person must file a petition that should be based upon facts and must show some type of mental illness or substance abuse issue. The petition must allege that the individual sought to be committed is dangerous to themselves or others. If the court agrees with the allegations in the petition, after a hearing, a custody order is typically issued. After the individual is in custody, a doctor or psychologist examines the individual to determine their status. After the individual is taken to a treatment facility they are examined several times.

Treatment and Release

An involuntarily committed individual is treated in whatever manner that is suitable to their particular issue. After the individual has gone through inpatient treatment for a period of time, differing from state to state and by circumstance, the judge or magistrate will again evaluate the commitment. If the individual is still showing signs of dangerousness or mental illness, they may be required to continue treatment on an in- patient basis in the commitment facility. If the individual is showing signs of improvement they may be release for outpatient treatment or may be released to another facility for voluntary commitment. The individual may also be released completely if the court is convinced that the individual is no longer a danger to themselves or others.

Due Process

The individual should always be informed of any proceedings or hearings involving the issue of their involuntary confinement. The individual is entitled to due process under the law, which includes notice and a hearing.

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