Can You Sue if You Have Been Committed Under the Baker Act?

The state, whether that is referring to the state of Florida or the general concept of government, deals with a recurring dilemma: keeping the citizens safe and secure while also ensuring their liberties and freedoms are reasonably protected. A notable example that illustrates the state of Florida’s struggle with this question is the Baker Act, which is used to get prompt medical care for those who are exhibiting troubling mental health symptoms. 

What is the Baker Act, and What is it Used For?

Most people without a legal background who have heard of the Baker Act associate the law with the involuntary confinement of people whose mental health conditions could lead to immediate harm to themselves and/or others. People who have been committed under the Baker Act may be held, without their consent, in a medical or mental health facility for a maximum of 72 hours. 

An individual can be involuntarily committed through one of the following three methods:

  • Law enforcement can take people who appear to meet the Baker Act criteria into custody and start the process of involuntary confinement
  • A court can issue an ex-parte order requiring an individual to be involuntarily confined
  • A physician, clinical psychologist, psychiatric nurse, counselor, therapist, or clinical social worker has, sometime in the previous 48 hours, evaluated someone who appeared to meet the criteria for involuntary confinement

What is the Criteria For Involuntary Confinement?

Individuals must first have a mental illness as laid out in the text of the Baker Act. Additionally, they must:

  • Either have previously refused a voluntary examination or are unable to decide whether or not to consent to the examination AND
  • The individual is likely to suffer from neglect or refusal to care for his or her own self OR
  • Inflict serious bodily harm to anyone (including the individual’s own person). 

What Are Your Legal Options?

If you or a loved one are involuntarily committed under the Baker Act, it is wise to begin seeking legal counsel. In some circumstances, the facility may petition the court to extend the involuntary commitment of the patient. Of course, that is sometimes the best course of action, but having an attorney protect the rights of a Baker Act patient is still essential during involuntary commitment. 

An attorney’s mere presence can increase the chances of the patient’s release by showing the support system available to the patient after release. Those who were improperly committed under the Baker Act might have grounds to sue for damages. Your chance of success, though, will be heavily dependent on the length of time you were involuntarily committed. Still, Baker Act patients have rights, and violations of those rights could result in the responsible person being liable for damages. 

Our Firm Wants to Help

Our legal team recognizes the interest the state has in keeping the citizens of Florida physically safe. This cannot come at the expense of certain rights, however. The Baker Act is an extremely complex law that necessitates the help of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. 

Luis E. Barreto & Associates, P.A. has extensive experience successfully litigating Baker Act lawsuits that allege wrongdoing on the part of law enforcement, courts, or medical facilities. Have any questions? We’d love to hear from you. Call us at 305-358-1771 to receive a free consultation.

Luis E. Barreto