What Is The Criteria Used To Initiate An Involuntary Examination Under The Baker Act?

The Florida Mental Health Act, more generally known as the Baker Act, was created to allow for the formation of mental health programs meant to “reduce the frequency, severity, duration, and debilitating characteristics of mental, hormonal, and behavioral disorders.” Section 394.453, Florida Statutes.

In addition to screening, the involuntary Baker Act provides for the designation of legal guardians. The Baker Act, on the other hand, is most recognized for its intuitive assessment and incarceration provisions.

Legislators passed the Baker Act to intervene on behalf of someone who has a mental illness who can harm themselves or others but is unwilling to seek treatment. The Act was sponsored by former Florida state representative Maxine Baker. As with the Baker Act, each state has its own name for legislation comparable to the Baker Act.

Ordered by Court

The Circuit Court might order involuntary examinations on behalf of a loved one or others. If a court confirms the order, a law enforcement officer will arrest the suspect and transfer them to a facility where they will be held until further notice.

Court Hearing

The involuntary placement hearing must be held within five days after the court’s order. Unless they have additional legal counsel, the defendant is represented by a court-appointed public defender. The defendant is entitled to a court-ordered examination by an independent expert.

Hearings are held to determine if the patient is competent to provide their consent to treatment. The court-appointed a guardian advocate if the primary counsel is deemed incompetent.

The court issued an order remanding the individual to an inpatient mental health hospital for up to six months if it determines that the person fits the conditions. The court may extend this term.

Ordered by Health Professional

A law enforcement officer will transfer the subject to the closest receiving institution if the person underwent an assessment by a physician, clinical psychologist, mental nurse, or clinical social worker during the previous 48 hours and met the requirements for involuntary examination.


A psychiatrist and a second mental health expert must examine the patient within 72 hours if the hospital admitted them due to an emergency medical condition to decide whether or not a transfer to a receiving institution for medical treatment is acceptable.

There may be no more than 72 hours of forced examinations per adult and 12 hours each minor for minors. After that, a licensed clinical psychologist or psychiatrist with training and expertise in diagnosing and treating mental illness must evaluate the patient. Afterward, one of the following must be the result of the exam:

  • Unless they are accused of a crime, the individual is free to go.
  • The patient is now free to seek care elsewhere.
  • The individual gives informed permission for voluntary placement in a treatment center.
  • Medical professionals submit a petition for involuntary placement with the circuit court.

Unless the receiving institution can prove that the individual is mentally ill, at risk of self-neglect, and a danger to themselves or others, they cannot file a petition with the court for involuntary placement.

Adults may request voluntary admission to a treatment institution under the Baker Act. Parents may also use the Act to secure the voluntary acknowledgment of a minor child. According to the Baker Act, there must be “substantial” proof that a person’s recent conduct implies they represent a danger to themselves or others.

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