Wisconsin Mental Health Laws

Wisconsin Civil Commitment Lawyers - involuntary commitment  Milwaukee Criminal Defense Attorney

The mental health lawyers at our Wisconsin firm skillfully defend the rights of patients facing involuntary civil commitment. If the government tries to commit you for treatment anywhere in Wisconsin involuntarily, we can help. Similarly, if you have a friend or family member who needs to receive involuntary mental health treatment, we can help with that too.

Involuntary Civil Commitment for Mental Health Treatment Lawyers in Wisconsin

Our Milwaukee criminal defense lawyers specialize in Wisconsin mental health laws. Our experienced Wisconsin mental health lawyer files petitions on behalf of families seeking treatment for their friends or loved ones. If police detain you or a family member at a mental health facility anywhere in Wisconsin, we provide knowledgeable representation. Similarly, if you need assistance obtaining treatment for someone you care about due to dangerous mental illness, contact us today.

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A quick guide to involuntary mental health treatment in Wisconsin

FAQ about Chapter 51:

  • What is a mental commitment for treatment and who can be detained? 
  • Who can file a petition for involuntary mental health treatment?
  • What rights does someone have if they are detained involuntarily in a psychiatric hospital?
What is emergency detention and commitment for involuntary mental health treatment? 
Emergency Detention

Wisconsin law authorizes law enforcement to take a person into custody and detain the person at an approved treatment facility. Police may detain a person at a treatment facility if:

  • there is probable cause to believe the person is
    • 1) mentally ill, drug dependent, or developmentally disabled;
    • 2) the mental illness is treatable. Meaning, a symptom(s) of the mental illness can be improved with the use of treatment; and
    • 3) the person is dangerous to themselves or others.
  • Several ways exist to establish the required dangerousness factor. First, based on an actual, threatened, or attempted act of physical harm or violent behavior that could cause serious physical harm to oneself or another person. Second, an actual, threatened, or attempted act to cause serious physical harm to another. Third, generally speaking, an inability to care for oneself sufficiently to avoid the likelihood of physical impairment or injury. Fourth, generally speaking, acts or omissions that demonstrate an inability to avoid harm to others.
Involuntary Commitment for Treatment

Wisconsin law sets forth the procedure for civil commitment when seeking an involuntary commitment for the treatment of a mentally ill individual. Additionally, the same process also exists to seek treatment for someone who alleged to be drug dependent or developmentally disabled.​ Further, depending on the basis under which it was filed, if the Court grants a petition for involuntary commitment, it may last for up to six months initially. This means that the subject could have a court order to receive treatment on an inpatient or outpatient basis for up to six months.

The law requires doctors to treat the subject in the least restrictive environment. Therefore, the patient may receive treatment as an inpatient or outpatient, depending on their treatment needs.  In addition to the original order, a Court may extend commitment orders under Chapter 51 for up to one year at a time at the expiration of the commitment term. However, to extend a commitment, the government must show that based on a person’s treatment history the person is likely to become dangerous if treatment were withdrawn. 

Who can file a petition for involuntary mental health treatment?

Statement of emergency detention for involuntary mental commitment

Petitions for involuntary treatment in Wisconsin normally start by police officers filing of a statement of emergency detention. A treatment director at a psychiatric hospital or facility may also start a petition for involuntary treatment.  

Petition for examination for involuntary mental commitment

Generally, three adults may file a petition for examination. When three adults file a petition, at least 1 must have personal knowledge ​of the individual’s dangerous conduct.  A petition for examination may result in the court issuing an order to detain the individual. Then, if the court issues an order to detain the person, the court will order them transported to a psychiatric hospital for commitment proceedings. However, for a court to issue an order to detain the person, the petition must allege sufficient grounds for involuntary treatment.

What rights does a patient have when they have been detained involuntarily for mental health treatment

An individual detained under chapter 51 involuntary commitment procedures has rights. For instance, the patient has a right to a copy of the petition and detention order. Additionally, the patient has a right to a written statement of the person’s right to an attorney. Similarly, the patient has a right to be represented by an involuntary civil commitment attorney. Likewise, the patient has rights to be present at hearings, question witnesses, testify on his or her own behalf, and call witnesses to assist on his or her behalf. Further, the patient also has the right to a hearing on probable cause for detention within 72 hours of arrival at the facility. Finally, the patient has a right to a jury trial if requested more than 48 hours before the final hearing.

For a free initial consultation with dedicated involuntary civil commitment mental health and treatment lawyers in Wisconsin, contact us in Milwaukee, WI. We also have experienced Milwaukee criminal defense lawyers to help with any of your other legal needs.