When a loved one is in trouble, you want to do whatever you can to help them. If they are contending with mental illness, you may help them find a therapist or a facility where they can go and get treatment as well as medication to function in their everyday life. If they are addicted to drugs and alcohol, this could mean staging an intervention and finding a rehabilitation facility where they could fully recover.
But when they are incapable of seeking out treatment, they refuse to take care of themself, and they pose a threat to themself or others, you may not know where to turn. What do you do if your loved one says they are planning to overdose on drugs or assault someone? What do you do if they attempt to hurt you?
You could always call up the cops or a mental health professional to see what they can do. They may just invoke the Baker Act and take your loved one to a facility against their will for evaluation. There, your loved one might get the treatment they need to heal and stop posing a threat.
On the other hand, the facility could end up causing real damage to your loved one’s life and make important medical decisions for them. Perhaps a concerned citizen called the cops on your loved one because they were acting unpredictable, but you know the perfectly innocent reason behind this behavior. You don’t want your loved one to be trapped in a facility for days, or in the worst-case scenario, months on end without the freedom to make their own decisions. No matter what situation you’re dealing with, it helps to learn the law about the Baker Act so you can help out your loved one as soon as possible. In any situation, time is of the essence, and a Baker Act attorney in Florida will be there to help you every step of the way.
What Is The Baker Act?
Section 394 of the Florida statutes is also known as The Florida Mental Health Act or The Baker Act. This statute was passed in 1971, and it allows an individual to be held under psychiatric supervision for up to 72 hours if they meet certain criteria. It must be clear that the individual is acting in a way that they are displaying extreme behavior and could harm themself or others.
For instance, an individual may claim that they are going to kill themselves and write a suicide note to show to their friends and family. They may also threaten to run someone over with their car, or otherwise attempt to hurt or kill another individual because they are not mentally well.
Who Determines if an Individual Can Be Involuntarily Taken to a Facility?
There are three types of people who can decide to send your loved one to a facility. The first one is a mental health professional such as a marriage and family therapist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist, or clinical social worker. They would need to create a certificate that says that they have evaluated your loved one within the past 48 hours and, in their professional opinion, they meet the criteria to be held for involuntary evaluation.
The second is a law enforcement officer who also believes that your loved one meets the same criteria. The third is a representative from the court, who can send out an order that says your loved one seems to meet the criteria and needs to go to a facility for their involuntary evaluation.
How Long Can a Facility Hold an Individual?
A physician, psychiatrist, or psychiatric nurse has up to 48 hours to determine whether or not an individual should be held for involuntary placement for up to 72 hours. During that time, they will attempt to treat and stabilize the individual. But keep in mind that if the end of that 72-hour period falls on a weekend or a holiday, they can hold that individual until the next calendar day. The facility is required to have written proof that they attempted to contact your loved one’s guardian or guardian advocate, attorney, or healthcare surrogate or proxy.
The medical professionals at the facility could determine a number of things. For instance, it could be that your loved one has a medical condition that causes them to act a certain way and not a mental health issue. Physical conditions like cancer, thyroid disease, influenza, sleep apnea, or viral pneumonia could cause a person to act in a way that would lead someone to believe they were not well. The professionals could also determine that your loved one needs to stay because they are having a mental health issue, or they could decide to release your loved one.
What Is Voluntary Placement?
If your loved one is taken to a receiving facility, they can request to stay there voluntarily. This will usually occur within the first 24 hours. If the physician, psychiatrist, or psychiatric nurse determines that your loved one meets the criteria for involuntary placement, then they will be prevented from leaving. Following this involuntary commitment period, the physician, psychiatrist, or
psychiatric nurse can file a petition for involuntary placement with the circuit court, and your loved one could then be held for up to that 72-hour period.
What Must Happen During the 72-Hour Period
During the 72-hour period, the facility must make a decision regarding your loved one. They have four options. They could release your loved one without any condition, release them for voluntary outpatient treatment, request that your loved one gives consent for admission to a voluntary inpatient treatment facility, or file a petition for involuntary placement with the court when inpatient or outpatient treatment is critical but your loved one will not go.
Can You Fight an Involuntary Placement?
You can fight an involuntary placement for your loved one. However, when they have been taken against their will to a receiving facility, then it turns into a dash to the courthouse. If the receiving facility files the petition with the circuit court and requests an order of involuntary placement, they are going to ask the state to begin making decisions for your loved one. They could ask the court to order your loved to be involuntarily held for up to six months. If your loved one wants to get out of a receiving facility, you need to file with the court first. This would be a petition demanding that your loved one be released immediately. You could handle this with the assistance of a Baker Act attorney.
What Happens if the Facility Files for Involuntary Placement First?
If the facility files the petition before you can, then there will be a hearing held before a judge or a magistrate. The hearing is usually held at the facility where your loved one is being kept. At the hearing, the state attorney’s office is going to make sure their representative is present. Your loved one will be given counsel; typically, this will be someone who is from the public defender’s office. The state is going to attempt to prove that your loved one meets criteria for continued involuntary placement. They could ask the magistrate or judge to order your loved one to be held for up to six months. This means the state will begin making medical decisions for your loved one. If you don’t want that to occur, then you’ll need a Baker Act attorney to assist you.
What Can You Do if Your Loved One is Being Held?
If your loved one is being held against their will in a facility, you should call a Baker Act attorney as soon as you find out they’re being taken there. The sooner the better so that you can beat the facility to the court and have a better chance of ensuring your loved one’s release. Then, they can make their own decisions or you could help them find an inpatient or outpatient facility where they could seek out treatment.
Your loved one who is being held, or you/your attorney, could file that petition or a writ of habeas corpus and request a hearing concerning a release. Typically, your loved one will have access to these forms at a facility, but in an ideal situation, you’d call on an attorney to help you file the forms to ensure everything is done correctly. After all, you want to have the best chance at taking charge of your loved one’s situation so that the state can’t make decisions for them.
Prior to filing a petition, if you call an attorney soon enough during that 72-hour time period, they could try to get your loved one released before the facility petitions the court. There will be a determination to see if your loved one is still a danger to themself or others. For example, if they are not exhibiting erratic behaviors and are not threatening themself or anyone else, they could be released without condition.
What to Do After Your Loved One Is Released
If you are successful and your loved one is released, then it might be time to address the issue that landed them in involuntary placement. It’s always advisable to consult a mental health professional before taking any action because the wrong move could end up hurting your loved one.
Every situation is different, but some possibilities for helping your loved one could include:
- Getting them a therapist they can talk to
- Sending them to a psychiatrist for medication
- Making sure they go to a doctor for a physical evaluation
- Assisting them with checking into a rehab facility
- Taking them to Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-step meetings
- Finding them a sponsor
- Looking for a better housing or job situation for them
There is no black-and-white solution to mental health issues, and it could take some time to figure out what will truly help your loved one. There is always a possibility that they could refuse to accept your help, too, which is why it’s important to be in touch with mental health professionals. They can help you deal with your loved one’s reaction as well.
How a Baker Act Attorney Can Help
A Baker Act attorney will have experience working with families whose loved one is going through a mental health issue. They will be able to figure out if an initiation of an involuntary placement is even legitimate. For example, conflicting information is often given regarding involuntary or voluntary status, firearm rights, medical records, seclusion, competence, medication, and restraint. Your attorney could find out if the process wasn’t done in the proper way and if your loved one would be eligible for release. They could also help you fill out complicated forms and file a petition before the state does.
Right now, if your loved one has been involuntarily placed, you’re likely stressed out and worried. What if your loved one goes into a facility and the situation negatively affects their mental health? What if they don’t deserve to be there? What if the state gets the right to make decisions for them? There are so many thoughts that are racing through your mind and you just don’t have the energy to
read up on the law or race to the court.
You could let a Baker Act attorney handle all of that for you so you can have some peace of mind during this tough time. All you have to do is get in touch with Baker Act attorney Mark Astor for a free and confidential consultation. He is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. He knows that legally, your loved one could be taken to a facility at any time of day and you’ll need
answers fast. All you have to do is contact Mark at 855-429-0074 with details about what happened and what legal action has been taken so far, if any. He’ll help you and your loved one get through this so you can handle the situation in the best way possible moving forward.