Involuntary Civil Commitment

The Connecticut shooting and reports that the shooter had a personality disorder but no criminal history got me thinking about Indiana’s involuntary commitment process for people with mental illnesses. I don’t have a lot of experience here but have looked at the statutes from time to time. Generally, the procedures are available at IC 12-26.

A law enforcement officer can take someone believed to be mentally ill and dangerous to a mental health facility for immediate detention. That’s good for 24 hours. If the doctor thinks there is cause to keep the individual detained, an application for emergency detention can be filed. This extends the involuntary commitment to 72 hours.

If the physician thinks the person is mentally ill and dangerous or gravely disabled, the physician is to prepare a report that will be filed with the court. The report must state the physician’s opinion that the person is mentally ill and dangerous or gravely disabled and requires continuing care and treatment. The report is filed with the court which can either release the person or order a hearing. The hearing has to take place within two days. If, after a hearing, the court agrees, a longer commitment can be ordered under IC 12-26-6 (temporary commitment – not more than 90 days) or IC 12-26-7 (longer than 90 days.)

If you think a guy is mentally ill and he’s doing things that scare you, your options are more limited if you don’t have a physician going along with your opinion that the person is dangerous. There are some protective order options in the Indiana Code, but the specific ones mainly deal with protection from family members and fears of workplace violence. Of course, the courts do have their general equitable powers. But, at the end of the day, there is always the concern that, if a guy is so mentally ill he’ll do you violence for no good reason, he might not be overly obedient to a court’s injunctive order telling him to stay off the property or whatever.


  1. knowledge is power says

    at least this actually gets the person to a hearing while present in front of a judge

    It is possible that no hearing with the “ward” present in front of the judge would ever take place on a temporary/emergency guardianship application.

  2. Nate Williams says

    A lot of this process varies, too, based upon location. In an urban area with greater access to mental health treatment facilities — Indy, Fort Wayne, South Bend, etc. — it will be significantly easier to not only have the person committed, but to actually have them properly engaged within a treatment system. My experience in Fort Wayne is that the police, other public safety personnel, emergency room staff, and others are attuned to what to look for and how to engage the process. That’s much more difficult in a rural or small town setting.

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