In re MH 2008-002393 – 12/17/2009

December 30, 2009

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds that Prior Involuntary Detention in Violation of Statute Does Not Constitute Grounds for Dismissal of Subsequent Involuntary Mental Health Treatment Proceeding.

A mental health patient threatening suicide was involuntarily detained for several weeks pursuant to a series of applications for emergency admission for involuntary evaluation.  Because of facilities shortages, the patient did not receive a mental health evaluation within seventy-two hours of hospitalization.  Acting on a petition for court-ordered treatment, the trial court subsequently held a hearing and ordered the patient to undergo a combination of inpatient and outpatient treatment.  The patient appealed the treatment order on the basis that he had been detained without an evaluation in excess of the statutorily permitted time period.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the treatment order.  The Court agreed that A.R.S. § 36-531(D) requires that a person detained involuntarily for inpatient evaluation “shall be released within seventy-two hours” unless the individual consents to treatment or a petition for court-ordered treatment is filed.  The appropriate remedy for violations of the statute, however, is “to seek release of the patient during the period of improper detention, not to request dismissal of a later-filed petition that complies with the statutory requirements.”  The patient could have sought release through a writ of habeas corpus but did not.  When new petitions are filed for court-ordered evaluation and treatment, the ensuing treatment order should not be dismissed unless the patient demonstrates that he did not receive a fair hearing because of his illegal detention. 

Judge Downie authored the opinion; Judges Norris and Weisberg concurred.