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Civil Commitment

What are the legal procedures for getting a person “committed” against his will?  Get a legal expert’s take on the law of involuntary civil commitment and the related concept of guardianship.

By
Adam Freedman
December 12, 2011

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Today’s topic: Civil Commitment 

And now, your daily dose of legalese:  This article does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader.  In other words, although I am a lawyer, I’m not your lawyer.  In fact, we barely know each other. If you need personalized legal advice, contact an attorney in your community.

What is Involuntary Civil Commitment?

This is the first of a two-part article dealing with involuntary civil commitment.  Legal Lad addressed this topic a few years ago, but given the importance of this topic, I think it’s worth taking a fresh look.  In today’s article, I’ll discuss what family members can do if they want to have someone committed for their own good.  In the next article, I address how a person can resist such committal.

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The Legal Standard for Civil Commitment

The good news – I think – is that it is not easy to force a person into an institution against his or her will.  Gone are the days when family members could casually decide that it was time for the proverbial “crazy aunt in the attic” to be shipped off to Happy Acres.  In order to prove a case of “involuntary commitment,” or, as it is also called “civil commitment,” a family member will usually have to convince a court that the person is either:

  1. A danger to himself; or

  2. A danger to others; or

  3. Unable to take decent care of himself.

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