By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
At The Health Law Firm, we are frequently consulted by family members of individuals who are erroneously held under Florida’s Baker Act. An erroneous confinement under the Baker Act can occur for a number of different reasons. However, the result is that an independent citizen is confined in violation of his/her constitutional rights to liberty, privacy and the pursuit of happiness.
The Baker Act allows a licensed health professional to order an individual who is a threat to themselves or others because of a mental illness to be involuntarily held. The individual may then be held in certain designated health facilities for up to 72 hours for an initial psychiatric evaluation.
If the psychiatrist examining the confined individual feels that he or she should be held for further evaluation, then he or she can be held up to a week.
When to Call a Baker Act Attorney.
Over-cautious physicians, emergency room personnel, school officials, nursing home staff and other authorities may call upon the Baker Act to have those that they suspect may be a danger and have a mental problem involuntarily confined. If they are believed to be a threat, usually that individual may be legally involuntarily confined under the Baker Act. Seniors living on their own and teenagers are often the “victims” of this process.
If the individual being held under the Baker Act is not really a threat to themselves or others and the facility will not agree to release them, this is the time to call an attorney. Mistakes often occur as health personnel, school administrators and law enforcement personnel do not want to take the chance of someone committing suicide or killing others.
Factors that may indicate the person should not be held under the Baker Act include:
1. No prior history of mental illness or Baker Acts.
2. Supportive family/friends in the immediate area.
3. Acts/statements made not truly a threat to self or others.
4. Regular treating physician or health care personnel in area.
5. No current signs of mental illness.
Examples of abuses of the Baker Act that can occur:
1. Individuals who do not have a mental condition and do not meet the basic criteria for the Baker Act may be involuntarily confined and deprived of their freedom.
2. Children are involuntarily confined at facilities that are not really set up to take care of the medical and mental health needs of children.
3. Because of overcrowding, the person is taken to or transferred to a facility far away from his or her home, family and friends.
4. A person who has other medical problems or chronic medical problems (especially true with the elderly) is confined in a Baker Act facility and is unable to receive regular medical care or attend scheduled appointments with their regular treating physicians.
5. A person who is taking one or more prescriptions for medical problems will not be allowed to take them while confined in the Baker Act facility. This can lead to a deterioration of the person’s medical condition.
6. If the person has a regular psychiatrist or therapist, that person is not allowed to see or treat the person where he or she is confined because the therapist is not on the medical staff of the Baker Act facility.
7. If the person has a regular psychiatrist or therapist, that psychotherapist is, most often, not spoken to or consulted by the psychiatrist or staff of the Baker Act facility, even though the regular treating psychotherapist may know far more about the confined patients condition than anyone else.
8. An individual may be confined in a facility in which one or more dangerous patients are also confined. Our clients have reported assaults and sexual molestation which have occurred at such facilities when they were confined involuntarily under the Baker Act.
9. It has been reported to us by our clients that it seems if they have good health insurance (or Medicare) then they are kept longer because the insurance company (or Medicare) is paying the hospital for the inpatient stay, which can be a large amount of money.
10. Sometimes the family is located in another state and merely wants to have the person released so he or she can be taken where they are so the family is better able to support their needs.
Examples of How The Health Law Firm Can Help.
We often receive calls from the husband, wife, parents, children or friends of individuals who have been confined involuntarily to a mental facility. Often, we are called on to respond urgently to obtain the release of someone who may have been incorrectly confined to a mental institution without their consent.
Occasionally, we assist in cases in which the family may be located in another state and the patient is located here in Florida. Often, we are able to obtain a prompt release of the confined person in cases in which the basic requirements for an involuntary confinement under Florida Law do not exist and the patient should not have been confined.
We have been involved in working on an expedited basis with the hospital, mental institution or court to obtain the release of individuals who should not be confined or who desire to be released into the custody and care of their family or back to their own independence.
For a sample of an Emergency Petition for Write of Habeas Corpus we prepared with its supporting documentation, and which contains citations to the appropriate legal authorities, click here. A Memorandum of Law (legal brief) in support of the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus is also included with it.
The Baker Act Is Not a Bad Thing.
We realize that the Baker Act is a good thing. Many people who may have serious mental health issues and fail to obtain treatment, should be involuntarily confined under the Baker Act. Sometimes this is the only way they will ever be treated correctly. Additionally, it is also a good thing that police, deputy sheriffs and other law enforcement officers are receiving training which is now resulting in more Baker Act hospitalizations and fewer arrests. This helps an individual to avoid a serious arrest and possible conviction of a serious offense (giving them a criminal record forever) when they may need only medical treatment for a mental condition.
Check this blog regularly for more on Florida’s Baker Act and the Marchman Act.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Victims of Involuntary Confinement Through the Baker Act and Marchman Act.
The Health Law Firm represents individuals, families and friends in challenges to and hearings related to the Florida Baker Act and Marchman Act, when the basic criteria for confinement are not met and there is no medical necessity for further confinement.
Our firm has a process we follow to make sure that a person who should not be held under the Baker Act may be released in a very short time. If the basic criteria for a Baker Act confinement are not present, the person is not required to be held and should be released. If the person has been living independently for decades, has family and a support system available, and has had no prior mental health problems, the odds are he or she should not be involuntarily confined. We act immediately to begin our representation, to make the hospital and its physicians aware that we are representing you, and to take measures to obtain release. If required, we are prepared to file an emergency Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the local Circuit Court to have you brought before the judge for an emergency release hearing. These cases can be time intensive, require a great deal of immediate work, but can yield fast results in most cases.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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