Why You Can Be Committed
You can be committed if you have a mental illness and your mental illness is causing you to be:
- dangerous to yourself (i.e. attempting suicide),
- dangerous to other people (i.e. attacking other people),
- suffering serious physical injury because you cannot take care of yourself (i.e. not eating enough food to stay healthy). This is sometimes called gravely disabled.
Your Rights at Your Commitment Hearing
At your commitment hearing, you have:
- the right to receive notice that there is going to be a commitment hearing.
- the right have an attorney at the hearing. The court is required to provide you with an attorney if you cannot afford one.
- the right to be at the hearing — unless you are too disruptive.
- the right to talk.
- the right to ask others to talk for you.
The Commitment Hearing
Most commitment hearings are held at the hospital. At the hearing, you will sit at a table with your attorney. The attorney for the state and the examiners sit at another table. The judge sits at yet another table The state is required to have two examiners evaluate you to see if you are dangerous or gravely disabled.
The attorney for the state will ask the examiners to talk about you. Your attorney might ask you to talk. Your attorney might also ask other people to talk. It is your attorney’s job to present your point of view.
Possible Outcomes of the Commitment Hearing
At the commitment hearing, the judge could decide to discharge you or to commit you. If you are committed, you are not committed to a particular hospital. You are committed to your local community mental health agency (i.e. Valley Mental Health, or Wasatch Mental Health.).
Length of the Commitment
Most people have a six (6) month commitment. However, this does not mean that you have to stay in the hospital for the entire six months. If you get better and the treatment team decides you are ready to leave the hospital, you can leave before the six months are over. Some people have “indeterminate” commitments. This usually happens to people who have been committed several times in the past. An indeterminate commitment means that you do not have hearings every six months. However, a person with an indeterminate commitment can ask to have their commitment reviewed. (UT Code §62A-15-631 (2015)(11)(a) “When the individual is not under an order of commitment at the time of the hearing, that period may not exceed six months without benefit of a review hearing. Upon such a review hearing, to be commenced prior to the expiration of the previous order, an order for commitment may be for an indeterminate period…”).
What You Can Do
If you disagree with the judge’s decision to commit you, you can do the following:
- File a written appeal of the judge’s order. You have to do this within thirty (30) days of the date the commitment order was signed.
- Write to the court to request a rehearing or modification of the commitment order.
- File a written petition for “habeas corpus,” which means that you ask the judge to remove you from the hospital. You do not have the right to have an attorney help you with any of these appeals. Staff from the Disability Law Center (DLC) is prohibited from helping you with these appeals.