Civil Commitment Process


You can be hospitalized involuntarily if the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that you pose a danger to yourself or others as a result of a mental illness or chemical dependency.

Voluntary admission for treatment is preferred over civil commitment, and in the event the court becomes involved in the process, less restrictive alternatives to commitment must be considered.

A person over the age of 16 may request voluntary admission for treatment of chemical dependency, mental illness, or developmental disabilities. Children under the age of 16 may be admitted voluntarily by a parent or legal guardian after an independent evaluation has taken place.

Pre-Petition Screening

Any person may request that the county conduct an investigation into whether you need involuntary hospitalization for treatment of a mental illness or chemical dependency. The Pre-Petition Screening Team will interview you, consider the conduct that would support a petition for commitment, and review available medical records. The team will also consider less restrictive alternatives to commitment, as well as information related to medications, including capacity to consent to the administration of medications. This would include healthcare directives, and whether you are likely to consent to medication.

The team provides you with a notice that explains your rights, the commitment process, and the legal effects of commitment. The person(s) who visit you from the screening team for an interview must identify him or herself and explain why s/he is interviewing you. That person must explain that anything you say may be used in a commitment hearing. It is your right to decline to participate in an interview; however, in that event, the team can rely on information from others in reaching its determination whether to recommend commitment. It is advisable to contact an attorney who specializes in commitment proceedings for advice.

The Team that interviews you does not need permission to ask your family, hospital staff or others any questions about your mental health, chemical dependency or the claimed facts that may lead to the filing of a Petition for Commitment.

Once the initial screening takes place, their report is provided to the county attorney for consideration of filing a petition for commitment.

Filing a Petition for Commitment

The individual who files a Petition is typically a social worker or a staff member of a hospital. That does not include any individual who took part in the Pre-Petition Screening Team. If the Pre-Petition Screening Team recommends that a Petition for commitment should be filed, the County Attorney in the county in which you reside or has financial responsibility will prepare the Petition and represent the Petitioner.Copies of the report are provided to the attorney who represents you, the county attorney and the court appointed examiner.

If you are in a hospital, the facility may place a 72 hour-emergency hold, which does not include weekends or legal holidays.

The court will appoint an attorney to represent you, or you can hire your own attorney.

Preliminary Hearing

After the petition has been filed with the court, a hearing is scheduled to determine if you should remain in the hospital until the trial on the petition. If the court believes that you may cause harm to yourself or others, the court will order that you remain in the hospital until the final hearing.


Before the final commitment hearing date, the court appoints a psychologist or psychiatrist to interview you. The examiner and both attorneys are granted full access to your medical records and your attorney should attend the examination.

You have the right to refuse to participate in the interview. In that event, the court can rely on the medical records and the testimony of individuals or healthcare representatives who have knowledge of the facts pertaining to the petition. If you are not satisfied with the treatment recommended by the examiner, you have a right to request a second examiner be appointed at no cost to you.

The Commitment Hearing

Time and Place

Unless there are special circumstances, the commitment hearing is held by Zoom and follows formal court procedures in order to protect your rights. The hearing may be held at a hospital if allowed by local rule. The commitment hearing must be held within 14 days from when the Petition was filed, but the Court may extend the hearing for up to an additional 30 days. You can demand that the hearing be held within 5 business days; however, the court may grant an extension of up to 10 additional days for good cause.


You have the right to attend the hearing, to testify and to present evidence at the hearing. You can also decline to testify. It is best to rely on the advice of the attorney representing you in developing a trial strategy. You may choose not to attend the hearing, and the court may exclude you from the hearing if it feels you are seriously disruptive or incapable of comprehending or participating in the proceeding. You also have the right not to be on medications during the hearing.


The court may order commitment if it makes findings based on clear and convincing evidence that:

  1. You are a person at risk of harm due to mental illness, chemically dependent or developmentally disabled and;
  2. There is a substantial likelihood you will physically harm yourself or others as demonstrated by:
    1. A failure to obtain food, clothing, shelter, or medical care as a result of the impairment;
    2. A recent attempt or threat to physically harm yourself or others; or
    3. Volitional conduct involving significant damage to property; and
  3. There is no less restrictive treatment program in the community that will meet your treatment needs.

The length of the initial commitment cannot exceed six months. At six months, another court hearing may be held to determine if the commitment should be extended up to another 12 months. This does not mean that you must stay in the hospital for the entire period of commitment. If the facility/program staff feels provisional discharge or full discharge is appropriate, they may do so before the commitment period ends.

The commitment may be appealed to the Court of Appeals within 60 days of the date of commitment. If an appeal is not filed within that time frame, the right to an appeal is waived.

Alternative Outcomes for Your Commitment

Release Before Commitment

Two less-restrictive alternatives to commitment are a "continuance for dismissal" and a "stayed commitment." The court may continue a case for dismissal for up to 90 days, at which time the Petition is dismissed. If you violate the terms of the treatment plan, the county attorney or case worker may ask the court to conduct a hearing to determine if you should be committed. A coun may also stay a commitment order for up to 6 months, which continues so long as you comply with the conditions of the stay. A stayed commitment may be renewed for up to an additional 12 months, if necessary. Further, a petition for recommitment may be filed, if circumstances warrant.

If the commitment order is stayed for more than 14 days, the court must issue an order that includes:

  1. A written plan for services with which you agree;
  2. A finding that the treatment is available;
  3. There is money to pay for the treatment, and
  4. The conditions you must meet in order to avoid revocation of the stay.

A case manager will be assigned to you to report your progress to the court. If you “substantially” fail to comply with the conditions, the case manager will report this failure to the court. If the case manager wants to revoke your release, a hearing must be held on the proposed revocation.

Community-based Treatment

It is possible for you to be committed to a treatment facility or community-based program, whether a live-in program or not. If the court finds that community-based treatment is appropriate, a written plan for services will be developed with conditions that you must complete, together with consequences for non-compliance with the plan. The consequences for non-compliance may include commitment to a more restrictive setting. In order to qualify for community-based treatment, the court must find that the treatment needed is available and that funds are available to pay for the treatment. Some insurance plans may pay for this treatment. If insurance covers this type of treatment, it must pay the cost of care per the terms of the policy. Medical Assistance or the county may also have an obligation to pay for this treatment.

Continuing Your Commitment

If the hospital, state operated treatment program, treatment facility, or community-based treatment program does not feel you are ready to be discharged at the end of six months, the court will schedule another hearing to extend the commitment. You have the same rights as in the first proceeding, including the right to a second examiner. If the court determines that continued treatment is necessary, the commitment can be extended for up to 12 months. If the treatment program staff feels you are ready, they may release you at any time.

Reviewing Your Commitment

If you believe that treatment under commitment is no longer necessary or there is no longer a risk of harm, you can request the court to schedule a hearing to seek discharge from commitment.

Mentally III and Dangerous; Psychopathic Personality; Sexually Dangerous Person.

These categories of Commitment are significantly more complex than any other commitments referenced in this summary. Commitment in these cases result in involuntary hospitalization at the security hospital for an indeterminate period of time, and release procedures require the involvement of the Special Review Board and the Commitment Appeal Panel. There are very few attorneys state-wide who are experienced in these proceedings. Bill has successfully represented many individuals in these proceedings.

The Minnesota Statutes governing the commitment process are set forth in Chapter 253B.

Bill communicates, advocates and is a man of his word. … My family appreciates his dedication, integrity and honesty.
– Chris M.

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