The Baker Act is a Florida Statute that permits the involuntary admission of a person to a treatment facility for a mental health examination. An adult may be held for up to seventy-two hours for the involuntary examination. The examination period for a minor (someone who is seventeen or younger) is shorter. The examination will be conducted if there is reason to believe that the person has a mental illness and because of that illness, the person has either (a) refused voluntary examination or (b) is unable to determine for himself or herself whether examination is necessary; and (a) without care or treatment, the person is likely to suffer neglect or refuse to care for himself or herself, which poses a real and present threat of substantial harm or (b) there is a substantial likelihood that without care or treatment, the person will cause serious bodily harm to himself or herself or others.
Many times people hear of law enforcement or mental health professionals (counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists) committing a person to a facility. But this ability is not restricted to just family members or professionals. There are provisions in the Baker Act that permit any adult with direct personal knowledge of the person’s mental health impairment and course of prior treatment to apply to the court for the same type of involuntary examination.
If a friend, family member, or other person with personal knowledge files the appropriate documents with the Clerk of Court, a Judge may issue an Order directing the Sheriff to take the person to a treatment facility for an involuntary mental health examination.
Following the examination, one of the following actions must be taken:
- The person must be released, unless they are charged with a crime, in which case the person must be returned to the custody of a law enforcement officer; or
- The person must be released for voluntary outpatient treatment; or
- The person, unless they are charged with a crime, will be asked to consent to placement as a voluntary patient and, if such consent is given, the person will be admitted as a voluntary patient; or
- A petition for involuntary services must be filed in the circuit court if inpatient treatment is found to be necessary. This is the start of a possible involuntary psychiatric commitment that would continue until the person is determined to be healthy enough for release.