Florida Baker Act Statute, Florida Baker Act
The two primary statutes within the Mental Health laws of Florida, which govern what we call the Florida Baker Act, are 394.463, and 394.467. These are the Florida Baker Act Statutes. As is often the case, I enjoy delving into the statutes to provide insight into the purpose and meaning behind statutory construction and the practical aspects of how the laws work in real life terms.
F.S. 394.463 is about involuntary examination. This sort of involuntary exam occurs with minors (children under 18) and with adults (people of eighteen years of age and older). A law enforcement officer, or a qualified physician also have the right to bring a person to a treatment facility for diagnosis and possible treatment. The person is brought to a medical facility such as Lifestream, which is open 24-7 to accommodate situations where suicidal thoughts or actions, or substance abuse have overwhelmed a person to the point where their friends, teachers, loved ones, coworkers, etc., believe that the person needs professional psychiatric attention imminently.
Pursuant to the Statute, involuntary examination occurs only after the person/patient has refused to undergo voluntary evaluation and has been informed of the purpose of such an exam. This is done as a sort of informed consent, even though no consent is actually provided. Facilities such as Lifestream, team with a multitude of community organizations to provide the greatest outreach possibly to those affected.
A circuit or a county court may enter an ex parte order granting the psychological evaluation of a person who exhibits suicidal tendencies. Perhaps the most critical phrase within the Statute is that a person will be evaluated if he or she “present threat of substantial harm to his or her well-being.”
The standard for the court to find a person should receive involuntary “inpatient” treatment is clear and convincing evidence. This standard more often than not, allows for the court to place a person in desperate need of help into a treatment facility. The court must find by clear and convincing evidence, that the person to be admitted cannot survive on their own, even with the help of friends and family. therefore, unless the person receives treatment, he/she will harm him or herself or others. Any less restrictive treatment option must be deemed unhelpful or unwise when taking into consideration the level of physycal harm that the person is capable of. As with the Florida Marchman Act petition, if an administrator of an inpatient facility files with the court to have the patient committed, after the investigation reveals a true risk of harm, they may petition the court. The alleged suicidal defendant is entitled to legal representation from the public defender’s office, or to private counsel. Moreover, a judicial officer must be present at the Bar Act hearing because of the potentially massive curtailment of the defendant’s rights. Doe v. State, 217 So. 3d 1020 (Fla. 2017). Doe is a 2017 Florida Supreme Court case that takes a n in depth look at the Florida Baker Act Statute. A hearing is held in which ONLY the doctors or administrators that petitioned for the defendant’s inpatient treatment may testify. To preserve the defendant’s constitutional rights, he/she may ask the court for an independent medical examination.
In Doe, the Florida Supreme Court further stated that “individuals subject to the Baker Act are among the most vulnerable in our society. [therefore] The Baker Act has built-in constitutional safeguards, including the requirement that hearings be conducted at the institution where the patient is placed and in a manner not likely to be injurious to the patient’s condition. Id. at 1025.
Florida Baker Act Statute Resources
The Florida Department of Children and Families offers a great deal of helpful information regarding the Florida Baker Act. The process is a challenging for all parties involved because of the severity of the charges, and the potential consequences of both allowing the potential problem to continue, or involuntarily committing a person unwilling to accept treatment. Not all defendants require Baker Acting, and many that should be treated for 90 or more days will not go voluntarily. To be Baker Acted is a serious curtailment of a person’s liberty. Those petitioning for another person to be committed should have a strong belief in the danger to that person and to those around them. This is not to be used simply to remove a person from their environment. The threat and the danger should be real. The Florida Baker Act Statute exists to help those in greatest need.
A recent statistical report released per the Florida Department of Children and Families via the Baker Act Reporting Center has revealed a sharp increase in Baker Acting in the past few years. The number of people getting help is trending upward. For help with your civil litigation needs, call the Jacobs Law Firm today at (407) 310-5636.