A 5150, named after the number of the section in the Welfare and Instructions Code, is a 72-hour involuntary hold for someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis. The purpose of those 72 hours is to detain the person for critical evaluation and treatment.
However, the person on hold may be released early if the mental health professional in charge of the facility determines that the patient no longer requires evaluation and treatment.
If you or a loved one finds yourself being detained on a 5150 hold, it can be tricky to be released early, which is why a criminal defense lawyer would indeed be your best defense in sorting through the complex process.
What Makes You Eligible for a 5150 Hold?
You are required to meet at least one of three basic criteria to be eligible for a 5150 and to be held against your will in a psychiatric facility:
- You are a danger to others, which is interpreted as the person’s means to carry out a threat to someone else, and that threat is significantly related to a mental health challenge.
- You are a danger to yourself, defined by the courts as a life-threatening danger, such as suicide.
- You are gravely disabled, which is described by California law as someone who must be unable to provide their own food, clothing, or shelter as the result of a mental challenge.
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What Are the Warning Signs of Suicide?
If you have been detained in a 5150 hold, or your family member is contemplating placing you on a 72-hour involuntary 5150 hold because they feel you may be suicidal, here are several warning signs of suicide that need to be considered:
- Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- Acting withdrawn or feeling isolated
- Frequently talking about suicide
- Showing extreme mood swings
- Losing interest in things they used to care about
- Acting anxious or agitated, or behaving recklessly
- There is a family history of suicide or mood disorders
- There is exposure to violence or abuse
- There is proof of substance use
What Qualifies as a “Danger to Others” for a 5150 Hold?
To prove that someone is a clear and present danger to others, one of the three criteria to be placed on an involuntary 5150 hold for up to 72 hours of mental health treatment, it must be established that the person has inflicted, attempted to inflict, or threatened to inflict serious bodily harm on another. There also needs to be a reasonable probability that the conduct will occur if a 5150 hold is not ordered.
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What Happens During a 5150 Hold?
Under California law, only designated professional personnel can place a person in a 5150 hold lasting up to 72 hours, which can be police officers, members of a mobile crisis team, or other mental health professionals authorized by the person’s county.
After that, what actually happens or what is required to occur during a 5150 hold? Here are several things to know:
- The person detained must be evaluated as soon as possible after being admitted to a designated mental health facility.
- The person must be advised of their rights.
- The mental health authority or facility must complete paperwork stating the circumstances and facts on why the person was involuntarily admitted and why they believe there is probable cause to be admitted.
- The 72-hour time period does not include weekends or holidays.
- The person on hold may request to be treated at a facility of their choice and by a mental health professional of their choice, but it is not guaranteed.
- During the 72 hours, the person may be transferred to another facility.
- During the 72 hours, the evaluation and treatment plan may include medications, therapy, and a closer look into the person’s medical, psychological, educational, social, financial, and legal situation.
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How Can You Be Released Early from a 5150?
It is possible to be released early from an involuntary 5150 hold before 72 hours if the medical health professional in charge of your case has determined that you no longer require evaluation and treatment.
This determination should be made based on the mental health specialist’s evaluation that is documented and created for each patient admitted, which includes the name of the person performing the advisement, the date of the advisement, whether the advisement was completed, and the language used to communicate the advisement.
What Happens if You Are Not Released Early from a 5150?
After the 72-hour hold of a 5150, there are several possible outcomes for a person involuntarily detained:
- The person will be released back into the community.
- The person will accept undergoing voluntary treatment.
- The person will undergo an extended 14-day involuntary hold, or 5250.
- The person will be referred to the Office of the Public Guardian for a conservatorship.
What Is a 5250?
After the 72 hours of a 5150 hold, a 5250 is a 14-day extension of the involuntary hold that may be decided if the staff of professionals at your mental health facility feels you need continued treatment.
Know that, if you are held for longer than 72 hours, you have the right to a lawyer and a hearing before a judge in the California courts. The treatment facility and attending psychiatrist must prove in their filed certification that you still meet one of the three criteria required on the original 5150, which, again, is that you are:
- A danger to yourself
- A danger to others
- Gravely disabled
You also have the right to receive a copy of this certification and to an automatic certification review hearing with your Los Angeles criminal defense attorney and a Patients’ Rights Advocate in attendance.
Are There Additional Impacts of a 5150?
If someone is hospitalized on a 5150 hold in California because of a mental health crisis, they are not permitted to possess a firearm or any other deadly weapon for five years after being released. You may request a hearing to challenge the ban within those five years.
If that person undergoes a second 5150 hold within one year, the firearm ban is for life. Also, a 5150 involuntary hold will be on your medical record, but it is not a criminal arrest, so it will not be reflected in your criminal record.