What is a Civil Commitment?
In civil commitments, the court orders a person into treatment based on mental health concerns. Specifically, the court may involuntarily commit somebody into a treatment facility if s/he:
1. Has a mental illness; and:
2. Is unwilling to seek treatment voluntarily; or
3. Is a threat to the safety of himself/herself or the safety of others.
There are two different types of commitments:
1. Mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or chemically dependent; and
2. Sexually danger person (SDP) and sexual psychopathic personality (SPP).
Mentally Ill, Developmentally Disabled, or Chemically Dependent
According to Minnesota Statute §253B.09, the court may involuntarily commit a person if the State proves by clear and convincing evidence that s/he is mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or chemically dependent. Minnesota Statute §253B.02 defines mentally ill as:
1. Any person who has an organic disorder of the brain or a substantial psychiatric disorder of thought, mood, perception, orientation, or memory;
2. Said disorder grossly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or to reason or understand; and as a result poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others.
The same statue defines developmentally disabled as:
1. Any person who diagnosed as having significantly sub-average intellectual functioning existing concurrently with demonstrated deficits in adaptive behavior and who manifests these conditions prior to the person’s 22nd birthday; and
2. Whose recent conduct is a result of a developmental disability and poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others.
The statute further defines chemically dependent as:
1. Any person determined as being incapable of self-management or management of personal affairs by reason of the habitual and excessive use of alcohol, drugs, or other mind-altering substances; and
2. Whose recent conduct as a result of habitual and excessive use of alcohol, drugs, or other mind-altering substances poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others.
3. A person involuntarily committed as mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or chemically dependent to a treatment facility may not be held longer than twelve (12) months on a single commitment petition.
Sexually Dangerous Person and/or Sexual Psychopathic Personality
1. Commitments under the sexually dangerous person and/or sexual psychopathic personality statutes are different than the commitments discussed above.
2. According to Minnesota Statute §253D.07, a sexually dangerous person or a person with a sexual psychopathic personality must be held in a treatment facility for an indeterminate amount of time. In other words, there is no indication of when a person will be released from the involuntary commitment.
Minnesota Statue 253D.02 defines a sexually dangerous person as:
1. Somebody who has engaged in a course of harmful sexual conduct;
2. Has manifested a sexual, personality, or other mental disorder or dysfunction; and
3. As a result, is likely to engage in acts of harmful sexual conduct.
The same statute defines sexual psychopathic personality as:
1. The existence in any person of such conditions of emotional instability, or impulsiveness of behavior, or lack of customary standards of good judgment, or failure to appreciate the consequences of personal acts, or a combination of any of these conditions; and as a result
2. Renders the person irresponsible for personal conduct with respect to sexual matters, if the person has evidenced, by a habitual course of misconduct in sexual matters, an utter lack of power to control the person’s sexual impulses and, as a result, is dangerous to other persons.
Problems with and Defenses Against Civil Commitments
1. The problem with civil commitments is the means by which the State (or interested person) proves its case and the consequence if commitment is deemed necessary. Specifically, civil commits are civil in nature. This means the burden of proof is lowered to “clear and convincing evidence” as opposed to “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
2. Additionally, the consequence of being civilly committed is involuntary treatment in a locked facility. Depending on the statute under which a person is committed, s/he may never be released.
3. It is crucial to find an aggressive Minnesota criminal lawyer when the State (or interested party) initiates civil commitment proceedings. A Minnesota criminal defense attorney can use specific defense strategies to avoid involuntary commitment, like finding less restrictive alternatives or stays of commitment. When your liberty is on the line, don’t take a chance with your defense. Hire the right defense attorney who understands the system and isn’t afraid to fight for your rights.