ILNews

Mental-health facility report not same as charging instrument

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The due process protections applicable to a charging instrument in a criminal case aren’t applicable to a report filed after someone is detained in a mental-health facility, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

In Commitment of A.L., No. 49A02-1001-MH-76, A.L., whom the appellate court noted may have already been released from detention, challenged the trial court’s order of temporary commitment. She argued the trial court committed fundamental error by letting Wishard Health Services, Midtown Health Center state one ground for involuntary commitment in a pre-hearing report following emergency detention and then state an additional ground for commitment at her final hearing. She also claimed the order wasn’t supported by clear and convincing evidence.

A.L. was taken to Wishard from the Statehouse after asking officials to help her get access to “child papers and wills” in Monticello, Ind. She was admitted based on emergency detention. She was later committed after a hearing for a period of no more than 90 days.

Wishard cited severe disability as the reason for involuntary commitment in the physician’s report but then also listed dangerousness at her hearing. A.L. believed that Wishard had to give her pre-hearing notice of every ground that supported its request for temporary involuntary commitment. She didn’t object to the “dangerous” claim at the hearing, but she claims it was a fundamental error that the court can review on appeal.

A.L. compared the report to a charging instrument in a criminal case and claimed there was a “fatal or material variance” between the report and the evidence presented at trial. But the judges rejected her argument because she cited no authority to support her position and because the charging instrument serves a different purpose than the report filed in the instant case.

The charging instrument gives a defendant notice of the crime she’s charged with so she can prepare a defense; the report is to inform the trial court that a mental-health facility has examined the detainee and whether she is mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled and requires continuing care, wrote Senior Judge Betty Barteau. In addition, A.L. was represented by counsel at her hearing.

“After considering these factors, we conclude that any error in the trial court’s admission of evidence or consideration of Wishard’s argument as to A.L.’s dangerousness was not a blatant violation of our concepts of fundamental fairness and did not cause substantial and apparent harm to A.L.,” she wrote.

Even if they didn’t consider whether A.L. was dangerous, the appellate judges also found sufficient evidence to support the order because Wishard proved by clear and convincing evidence that she was gravely disabled.
 

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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