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Baker Act and Mental Health Court

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Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another video.

I want to follow up on some of the other videos that I’ve also sent out to you about the Baker Act. This particular video is in response to another one of the awesome emails that I have been receiving. In this video, I want to talk to you about the difference between mental health court and the Baker Act.

I’ve already talked about the Baker Act in a number of videos where I explained to you why I like it and why I’m not too fond of it. The fact that it’s civil, not criminal in nature, and while it can be a very useful tool which I like to use on occasion, it can also get abused.

One of the emails that I received asked a really great question which is, “If I get bankrupt or our loved one gets baker acted, do we have the choice to use mental health court instead of the bankrupt court?” The simple answer to that is no.

Way back when back in the 90s, when I was a very young and naive prosecutor, one of the things I noticed pretty quickly was that there was this revolving door at the courthouse, where the same people kept coming back over and over again. I realized that most of those people were coming back because they had substance use and/or mental health issues going on that were left untreated. So, they weren’t getting the help they needed and ended up in the criminal justice system again. At the same time, the whole idea of handling domestic violence cases differently also came to the forefront, pushed mainly in response to some of the high-profile cases discussed.

Back in the 90s, we created the domestic violence call, which helped us, prosecutors, prosecute cases and get people the right help—for the people who are getting arrested and help our victims. We then created a special domestic violence court. Some years later, we also created a mental health court designed to help those who need help with substance use and mental health issues that weren’t getting it. So, the difference between the Mental Health Court and the Baker Act Court is the latter is civil, and the mental health court is part of our criminal justice system.

In this newsletter, I will attach links to both the Palm Beach County and Broward County mental health courts. Basically, what has happened is that our legislators decided that certain cases warrant a different type of handling, so the mandate in Florida when you get arrested is to punish first and to rehabilitate second. However, they also recognize that if you are punished repeatedly and you don’t rehabilitate, you will repeat this thing or make the same mistakes over again. So, in Palm Beach and Broward, based on the kind of crime they commit, and basically if it’s a violent crime or you have a significant history, you’re probably not going to get the option of going to mental health court. On the other hand, if it’s one of the specifically enumerated types of offenses, the judge will allow you to participate in mental health court. The idea is you get the treatment that you need, and once you have successfully completed the treatment protocol, hopefully, you will not get arrested again and get kicked out of mental health. Then, the charges are dropped, and hopefully, you don’t come back again.

I hope that explains the difference. If you have any more questions about anything that we do here, at Drug and Alcohol Attorneys, certainly about the Baker Act Mental Health Court. I always welcome comments; some of you have agreed with me, some of you disagreed, and some have made points. That actually helped me learn something, and I do appreciate that. They call it the practice of law and the idea you never stop learning, so with that said, thank you for taking time to listen to me and stay safe out there. Thank you very much. Bye!

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