A person that was Baker Acted is committed to a mental health facility. It’s a Baker-Act receiving facility, which will psychologically examine the individual for 72 hours. The 72 hours will begin when the Baker Act Form is filed and once they are admitted. However, sometimes, a person is wrongfully Baker Acted due to miscommunication or misunderstanding.
You must know your rights if your loved one was wrongfully Baker Acted. You will need to find reputable Baker Act Lawyers in Florida who will study your case and find a solution based on your best interest.
Smith & Eulo has the expertise to take care of your case regarding Baker Act Defense in Florida. They have a team of lawyers with years of experience in Baker Act defense and more. So, if you believe that they have been taken against their will, a reliable lawyer is what you need.
Understanding the Florida Baker Act Law
The Baker Act provides an individual with an emergency mental health assessment with a temporary mental hospital hold to determine if a person is mentally unstable. A loved one or other people can request emergency mental services for someone believed or accused of having mental health problems and can’t or doesn’t want to request help for themselves.
This act was sponsored by Maxine Baker, a former Florida state representative. It was passed in 1971. Currently, most states have enacted the same legislation based on or similar to the Baker Act. However, each state has its own name for the specific legislation. Ultimately, this act aims to bring individuals the treatment they need regarding mental health, even if it’s against their wishes.
Who Can Baker Act Another Individual?
The parties who can enforce a Baker Act on another person include law enforcement, medical professionals, and mental health professionals. If a loved one or another concerned citizen believes the person has a mental illness, they can call the police to start the process of Baker Acting them immediately.
At the same time, they can file a petition in court to have their mental health evaluated. A written statement is required where the mental illness is described and documented and the reasons why they should be Baker Acted. They can do it at the county’s Clerk of Court office.
How is a Person Subjected to the Baker Act in Florida?
According to Chapter 394 of the Florida Statutes, a person can be transferred to a Baker Act receiving facility for involuntary examination once they meet the following:
- Mentally or Emotionally Impaired: A person who can’t control their actions or understand reality is believed to be mentally impaired even though they don’t abuse any substances or have any developmental disability.
- Refusing Voluntary Examination: The person doesn’t understand the need for the examination or if they refuse due to their mental illness.
- Causing Harm to Others or Themselves: The individual believed to have a mental illness is causing harm to themselves or other people.
If a person fits the criteria listed above, emergency mental health professionals will bring them to a receiving facility against their will. But some people may also choose to voluntarily Baker Act as long as they consent to treatment.
However, a Baker Act defense attorney in Florida is required for instances where they are wrongfully Baker Acted because their actions were misunderstood.
What are the Signs of a Person Experiencing a Mental Health Crisis?
In general, the signs and symptoms of a person experiencing mental illness where medical intervention is necessary may be one or more of the following:
- Suicidal thoughts: Threats of suicide or self-harm can warrant the Baker Act in Florida. The stronger the case is if the person has access to weapons or has a history of self-harm.
- Hallucinations: Seeing things and hearing voices that are not there are grounds for Baker Acting as an individual experiencing the hallucinations, especially those suggesting harm to others or themselves.
- Depression: Treatment for depression leading to hopelessness and an inability to function daily is necessary.
- Failure to care for oneself: Not being able to care for themselves, which includes basic needs, sleep, hygiene, eating, or taking medications, means a mental health assessment may be required.
Sometimes, an individual will abuse a substance due to their mental health. While more appropriate for the Marchman Act, excessive substance abuse is still grounds for medical intervention.
What Happens After the 72 Hours Involuntary Examination Period?
The involuntary examination will only last 72 hours for adults and 12 hours for minors. It cannot exceed this timeframe, and the mental health professionals will do all necessary mental health evaluations. A clinical psychologist will examine the individual. They must be experienced and qualified in diagnosing and treating mental disorders. After the examination, one of the following will happen:
- The person is released unless they have committed a crime and are charged for it.
- They’re released for outpatient treatment.
- They have provided consent for voluntary placement in the treatment facility.
- The medical professionals will file a petition for involuntary placement of the individual.
It’s worth noting that the medical or treatment facility can’t file a petition for involuntary placement unless they have clear evidence that the person is mentally ill, is in danger to themselves and others, and shows signs of self-neglect.
Act Immediately to Get the Best Outcome
The first 72 hours (or 12 hours for minors) is the best time to act to ensure that your loved one isn’t held within the treatment facility for the long term. Securing their release means you need a Florida Baker Act lawyer to help you find a solution to this problem. It’s critical since the State of Florida could decide on the Baker Acted person’s behalf.
If you believe your loved one isn’t mentally ill, you should seek a lawyer specializing in the Baker Act Law. You don’t want them to be held against their will for six months or longer. Fortunately, Smith & Eulo has a team of lawyers to guide you through this complex process. Schedule a consultation with us today, and we will ensure your loved one’s release from the hold.
*Additional Orlando Florida & Orange County Legal Resources