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Understanding more about the Baker Act -- II

Last week, our blog started discussing how there are certain situations in which state officials can legally hold you against your will in the absence of some sort of alleged criminal activity. Specifically, we started discussing proceedings held under Chapter 394 of the Florida Statutes, or the Florida Mental Health Act and the Baker Act.

In today's post, we'll continue this discussion, focusing on how involuntary Baker Act proceedings are initiated.

To recap, Baker Act proceedings decide whether individuals must be temporarily detained -- either voluntarily or involuntarily -- for evaluation and treatment for a mental health issue.

Involuntary proceedings under the Baker Act are typically initiated in one of three ways:

  • A certificate is executed by a licensed professional -- physician, clinical social worker, clinical psychologist or psychiatric nurse -- indicating that 1) they have examined an individual with the last 48 hours and 2) this individual satisfies the findings for involuntary examination mandated by the Baker Act. A law enforcement official will then take the individual to a receiving facility, where they will undergo the necessary examination.
  • A law enforcement official takes an individual who appears to satisfy the findings for involuntary examination mandated by the Baker Act into custody and transfers them to a receiving facility, where they will undergo the necessary examination.
  • A judge issues an ex parte order declaring that an individual who lives within the jurisdiction of the court appears to satisfy the findings for involuntary examination mandated by the Baker Act. This order is then forwarded to local law enforcement officials who will issue a warrant for the individual, and, after locating them, take them to a receiving facility, where they will undergo the necessary examination.

When it comes to these ex parte orders, it should be noted that the person seeking to have an individual undergo the involuntary examination (i.e., the petitioner) must be able to declare under oath that they have firsthand knowledge of the individual's behavior and that they had recently discussed the possibility of their undergoing a voluntary examination.    

Furthermore, it's imperative to understand that individuals can only be held for a minimum of 72 hours under an ex parte Baker Act order.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights and options as they relate to Baker Act proceedings, or other criminal defense matters.

Source: Escambia County Florida Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, "Court services-Baker Act," Accessed March 11, 2015  

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