What is civil commitment?
Civil commitment is a process in which a judge decides whether a person alleged to be mentally ill should be required to accept mental health treatment. A civil commitment is not a criminal conviction and will not go on a criminal record.
When a civil commitment petition has been filed, an investigator from the Community Mental Health Program (CMHP) investigates the need for the commitment. Depending on the investigator’s decision, the case may be dismissed without a hearing, the person may go into a diversion program, or a hearing may be held. If a hearing is held, the person has a lawyer and witnesses testify. The judge then makes a decision whether the person should be committed. If the person is committed, the person may be hospitalized or may be required to undergo treatment in some other setting.
A person can be committed if after hearing from witnesses a judge finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person has a mental disorder and, because of that mental disorder, is:
- Dangerous to self or others, or
- Unable to provide for basic personal needs like health and safety.
Or, the judge can find that a person is:
- Diagnosed as having a major mental illness such as schizophrenia or manic-depression, and
- Has been committed and hospitalized twice in the last three years, is showing symptoms or behavior similar to those that preceded and led to a prior hospitalization and, unless treated, will continue, to a reasonable medical probability, to deteriorate to become a danger to self or others or unable to provide for basic needs.
Contact one of OHA's Civil Commitment Coordinators: