Commitment Law in Florida

In Florida, the Involuntary Commitment law is also known mainly as the Baker Act. The main provisions of the laws in Florida which concern involuntary commitment to psychiatric treatment facilities are all found under the Baker Act. The following are excerpts of the main provisions:

Rights of patientto receive treatment

Every person who stays in a health institution for twelve hours must be diagnosed by a medical practitioner who is recognized by law.

Rights of patients to give consent

Every patient receiving treatment is requested to give consent for treatment.

Rights of patients to petition for Habeas corpus

A person confined in a health institution, or an advocate, or relatives may appeal for a writ of habeas corpus test the legitimacy of such confinement on behalf of the patient.

Involuntary Patients

If a person is held for involuntary examination, the addresses and names of his advocate or guardian must be written in the patient's records.

Involuntary examination

An individual may be held in a health institution for involuntary examination in cases where there is grounds to suppose that the person is mentally ill.

In light of the law’s original intent and its current efficacy involuntary commitment law is perceived as capable of depriving persons their liberty because diagnosis which support the rationalization for the involuntary commitment rests, or the person’s ability to writing and also his speech.  Basing the law in part or whole on writings or speech infringes on the First Amendment. 

Another critic on involuntary commitment law is that it violates the Fifth Amendment particularly in several ways, for example it violates against the right of self-incrimination, because the person who is psychiatrically-examined is deprived the right to remain silent, on the contrary such silence can be presented in court as evidence mental disorder. This criticism led to the formation, in several jurisdictions, of a comparable statutory right in this situation.

Involuntary commitment law have also been seen as committing persons to torture because, "treatments" normally done in, mental institutions where by persons are involuntarily taken to amount to torture.

The potential effect of involuntary commitment on self-determination rights and freedoms is also a source of concern. Opponents of involuntary commitment argue that the law provides a way of defending criminal defendants and an infringement of fundamental due process therefore violating the constitution. Since judges are perceived not to abide by the constitution and carry on subjecting patients to mental facilities based on involuntary commitment law constitutional amendments ought to be made to remove the ability of judges to unwillingly commit.

In the light of its original intent the involuntary commitment law, especially in Florida where it has been a judicial custom: allegations have been made that that at several times and places the application of involuntary commitment law has been a punitive measure as well as censorship of dissent. Therefore measures should be put in place to eliminate or significantly decrease the provisions of involuntary commitment by using strict principles in its imposition.

Indeed a practical situation where involuntary commitment was proven to violate human rights was the case of O'Connor v. Donaldson whereby Supreme Court ruled that treatment or hospitalization of a patient by force (involuntarily) infringes on a person’s freedoms and civil rights. This ruling compelled the state of Florida to amend its involuntary commitment law to include: ‘’a person must be showing actions which pose harm to others or themselves so as to be detained, the detention must be done for assessment only. The persons holding the suspect must obtain a court order if the hospitalization or treatment period is meant to be short (normally 72 hours or less). This ruling has strictly restricted involuntary commitment and treatment in Florida.

From the perspective of civil rights and freedoms, involuntary treatment or hospitalization creates a category of citizens who police officers can put into custody or use precautionary detention at their discretion. Many patients who have been victims of involuntary commitment referred to their experience in mental hospitals as incarceration. Involuntary incarceration can indeed be said to inflict an illegitimate standard of civil right on people who are suffer from mentally illness as compared to standards guaranteed to normal citizens. If a person is not categorized as psychologically ill, can the police put him in custody for something they think he will do, but hasn’t yet done? This begs the question, ‘is there any proof that individuals with psychological problems more dangerous to the society than random people encountered in day to day events?' This question should invoke the general public, legislatures and law enforcers to looking beyond ordinary perceptions regarding the purpose of involuntary commitment in the interaction between civil protections and rights.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is also known as the Buckley Amendment is a codified law in US federal law: it has executive set of laws in title 34, of the federal code of laws. These laws stipulate that educational institutions and facilities that obtain financial support under a plan governed by United States education department have to give students the right to view their education reports, and also give them the chance to request that their education records be changed. Students are also given control over information which can be disclosed from the records therefore education institutions must receive student's permission before revealing their education records.

A student is entitled to these rights when he or she attains eighteen years or joins an education institution which ranks above high school level.

Eligible students as well as parents can review and inspect the records kept by the school. These laws do not compel schools to give copies of records except, on situations such as great distance, or cases where it is impossible for students or guardians to access the records. A fee may be charged in such situations.

A hedonistic drug abusing youth would differ with his utilitarian parent when it comes to the issue of who has access to school records of the student. If the drug abusing youth is not declared as a dependent, the guardian cannot claim the right to assess his or her education records. This right is still denied to the parent even in situations where he pays tuition fees.

The opinions of a utilitarian parent may also conflict with that of a drug abusing youth in a situation where the youth's parent claims that his or her child intentionally gave false information regarding financial support application; however the educational institution may not reveal the student's educational information to his/her parent.

The rights of the drug abusing youth protected by Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act can be revoked if the utilitarian parent proves it’s a safety or health emergency. In such a situation the student’s information can be disclosed by the school if it will mitigate or prevent grave danger to the safety or wellbeing of the student, as well as other school society members. The disclosure has to be carefully modified to suit the type of the emergency at hand. Another condition is that the danger has to be forthcoming and eminent.

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