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Baker Act

The Florida Mental Health Act has been codified in Florida Statute §§ 394.451-394.47891 and is more commonly known as the Baker Act. The Act allows for the involuntary institutionalization and examination of an individual who may have a mental illness or is considered a potential harm to him or herself or other people.

A report and recommendations of the Subcommittee on Case Administration concerning the judicial administration of the Baker Act and its effect on Florida’s elders noted that a comprehensive written survey of judges, general masters, state attorneys, public defenders, and clerks of court found that many survey respondents and speakers said the mental health system is a “revolving door” for indigent patients, who are back on the street quickly. “Involuntary placement under the Baker Act results in a profound deprivation of liberty,” the report stated. “Until or without a court hearing, there is no due process.”

Baker Act Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Understanding how the Baker Act might affect a pending criminal case is imperative. Having a criminal defendant institutionalized could affect his or her access to important documentation or resources concerning a pending case. To learn more about the Baker Act, contact Meltzer & Bell

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell defend alleged first-time offenders in Margate, Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, Davie, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, and many surrounding areas of Broward County.

You can have our attorneys provide a complete evaluation of your case as soon as you call (954) 765-6585 to receive a free initial consultation.

Broward County Baker Act Information Center

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Difference Between Voluntary and Involuntary Baker Act Examinations in Florida

Under Florida Statute § 394.4625(1)(a), a facility—defined under Florida Statute § 394.455(16) as “any hospital, community facility, public or private facility, or receiving or treatment facility providing for the evaluation, diagnosis, care, treatment, training, or hospitalization of persons who appear to have or who have been diagnosed as having a mental illness or substance abuse impairment”—can receive for observation, diagnosis, or treatment any person 18 years of age or older making application by express and informed consent for admission or any person age 17 or under for whom his or her guardian makes such application.

Florida Statute § 394.4625(1)(d) establishes, however, that a facility cannot admit a person as a voluntary patient who has been adjudicated incapacitated unless the condition of incapacity has been judicially removed.

Additionally, Florida Statute § 394.4625(1)(f) states that the admitting physician must document in the patient’s clinical record that the patient was able to give express and informed consent for admission within 24 hours after admission of a voluntary patient, or the patient must be discharged or transferred to involuntary status if he or she is not able to give express and informed consent for admission.

Under Florida Statute § 394.4625(2)(a), a facility must discharge a voluntary patient:

  • Who has sufficiently improved so that retention in the facility is no longer desirable. A patient may also be discharged to the care of a community facility; or
  • Who revokes consent to admission or requests discharge. A voluntary patient or a relative, friend, or attorney of the patient can request discharge either orally or in writing at any time following admission to the facility, and the patient must be discharged within 24 hours of the request unless the request is rescinded or the patient is transferred to involuntary status.

A person can be taken to a receiving facility for involuntary examination under Florida Statute § 394.463(1) if there is reason to believe that the person has a mental illness and because of his or her mental illness:

  • The person has refused voluntary examination after conscientious explanation and disclosure of the purpose of the examination, or the person is unable to determine for himself or herself whether examination is necessary; and
  • Without care or treatment, the person is likely to suffer from neglect or refuse to care for himself or herself; or there is a substantial likelihood that without care or treatment the person will cause serious bodily harm to himself or herself or others in the near future, as evidenced by recent behavior.

Florida Statute § 394.463(2) establishes three ways in which an involuntary examination may be initiated:

  • A court can enter an ex parte order stating that a person appears to meet the criteria for involuntary examination and specifying the findings on which that conclusion is based. The ex parte order needs to be based on written or oral sworn testimony that includes specific facts that support the findings. The order is valid only until the person is delivered to the facility or for the period specified in the order itself, whichever comes first. If no time limit is specified in the order, the order is valid for seven days after the date that the order was signed;
  • A law enforcement officer can take a person who appears to meet the criteria for involuntary examination into custody and deliver the person or have him or her delivered to an appropriate, or the nearest, facility within the designated receiving system for examination;
  • A physician, clinical psychologist, psychiatric nurse, mental health counselor, marriage and family therapist, or clinical social worker can execute a certificate stating that he or she has examined a person within the preceding 48 hours and finds that the person appears to meet the criteria for involuntary examination and stating the observations upon which that conclusion is based.

The voluntary examination process is much less complicated than the involuntary examination process. If a person is deemed competent to consent, he or she continues treatment until he or she is sufficiently improved, refuses or revokes consent to treatment, or requests discharge, after which he or she will be discharged. If a person is found to be incompetent to consent, he or she will be discharged or transferred to involuntary status.

The multiple possibilities relating to involuntary examination are outlined in the Florida Department of Children and Families’ Baker Act User Reference Guide. You can also view the possible outcomes of a Baker Act flowchart.

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Rights of West Palm Beach Patients Under Baker Act in Broward County

Florida Statute § 394.459 establishes the following dozen rights of patients:

  • Right to individual dignity;
  • Right to treatment;
  • Right to express and informed patient consent;
  • Quality of treatment;
  • Communication, abuse reporting, and visits;
  • Care and custody of personal effects of patients;
  • Voting in public elections;
  • Habeas corpus;
  • Violations;
  • Liability for violations;
  • Right to participate in treatment and discharge planning; and
  • Posting of notice of rights of patients.

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Florida Baker Act Resources

Mental Health | Broward County Clerk of Courts — Visit this section of the Broward County Clerk of the Courts website to find more information about mental health cases in Broward County. You can learn more about incapacity and suggestion of capacity, developmental disabilities, and assistance with forms. The website also lists fees and costs, answers to frequently asked questions, and a glossary of terms.

Broward County Clerk of the Courts
201 SE 6th St.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
(954) 831-6565

Crisis Services – Baker Act | Florida Department of Children and Families — On this section of the Department of Children and Families website, you can find several kinds of information about the Baker Act. The Baker Act Updates section includes links to the 2008 Attorney General’s opinion that a physician assistant can initiate a Baker Act and the 2008 revised rules for restraint and seclusion. You can also find a master list of Baker Act receiving facilities.

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Find a Baker Act Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale, FL

If you need legal assistance understanding the Baker Act in South Florida, it is in your best interest to immediately seek legal representation. Meltzer & Bell represents individuals in communities all over Broward County, such as Weston, Wilton Manors, Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Plantation, Pompano Beach, Sunrise, Tamarac, and many others.

Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell are experienced criminal defense lawyers in Fort Lauderdale who will work tirelessly to help you achieve the most favorable resolution to your case.

Call (954) 765-6585 or fill out an online contact form to have our attorneys review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a free, confidential consultation.

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