Law and the mentally disordered offender

The Baker Act in Florida is intended to give emergency services, temporary detention, short term as well as long term treatment and observation to individuals who may be mentally ill. The Act was set up mainly to avoid unnecessary involuntary admission into facilities for individuals who are able to consent. This paper will therefore give a report of the various guidelines under the Baker Act, putting forth the specifications that are recommended.

Law and the Mentally Disordered Offender

The Baker Act in Florida was set up as a way of offering emergency services as well as temporary detention to individuals who may be having mental disorders so that they can receive mental health evaluation as well as treatment. The Baker Act allows for this to be done either voluntarily or involuntarily depending on certain individual factors (Robertson, 2008).

In this case, voluntary admission applies to individuals who are 18 years old and above as well as parents or guardians of anyone who is either 17 years of age or younger. Therefore, the Baker Act allows these individuals to voluntarily make applications requesting that they be admitted into a mental health facility so that they can receive treatment, diagnosis or observation by health care providers (Robertson, 2008).

On the other hand, involuntary admission under the Baker Act applies to individuals who do not make admission applications voluntarily. This is in reference to cases where there are signs that an individual may be mentally ill and because of the mental illness he/she does not agree to seek voluntary examination. On the other hand, the mentally ill person may not be able to decide individually whether he/she needs examination because of the state that they are in whereas if not given the necessary care or treatment, the individual may refuse to take care of himself/herself or may be neglected by the people around him (Robertson, 2008).

 What is more, rebuttal to take care of oneself may increase the susceptibility of the individual’s well being to harm whereas the lack of proper care or treatment may lead the person to cause him/herself or other people bodily harm in the coming days as per their recent behavior. It is under the aforementioned circumstances that the Baker Act calls for involuntary admission of individuals into a mental health facility (Robertson, 2008).

Apart from voluntary and involuntary admissions, a law enforcement officer is also authorized to take an individual to an evaluation facility. This applies in cases whereby if according to the officer’s judgment, there is reason to believe that the behavior of that person correspond with the statutory guidelines provided under the involuntary examination statute (Robertson, 2008).

Further still, an Exparte petition is usually taken for involuntary examination. This refers to a petition sworn in by an individual indicating that he/she has seen an individual causing him/herself or other people harm, therefore recommending involuntary admission for that person. This is usually done by a family member or any other person interested who are required to fill out the petition as well as an affidavit. However, this is usually done after the person who is to fill out the petition has provided proper identification and has witnessed the harmful behavior personally (Robertson, 2008).

As soon as the affidavit has been sworn in, it has to be reviewed by court. The court will then decide, if according to the evidence given in the petition and affidavit, the said individual needs examination. It is after this that the judge enters an order instructing the sheriff to pick up the mentioned person and take him/her to the nearest mental health facility (Robertson, 2008).

The sheriff can hold the order provided by the judge for seven days incase they are not able to locate him/her immediately and they need to continue the attempts to take that person into custody. When the sheriff has successfully taken that person into custody, it is recommended that they should not be held in the facility for more than 72 hours (Robertson, 2008).

Based on my findings on evaluating suicide risks, an estimated 90 percent of the people who commit suicide all tend to have a history of drug use or mental disorder. Thus, suicide attempts are more common to persons who have mental disorders. As a result, it is important for the justice system to conduct suicide screening in a systematic manner with the procedures being effectively implemented. At the same time, the screening process should be conducted during admissions to institutions as well as during the stages of the justice system where factors like social isolation, age, sex and drug use among others may be considered (Peters et al, 2008, p.24)

Moreover, the screening should address areas like the existing mental health conditions for drug users, their suicidal thoughts and their frequencies, suicidal attempts and existing plans among others. Also, cultural issues should be considered during screening and assessment. This is to say, the assessment should consider factors race, religion, social class, sex orientation as well as gender. In other words, these factors also tend to affect the expression of mental health symptoms where factors like racism, discrimination or poverty may increase vulnerability to chronic stress that may just as well lead to mental disorder. In addition, the symptoms of mental health may be expressed in different ways from one race to the other (Peters et al, 2008, pp. 29-30)

As a result, the key issues with regards to selecting screening instruments for specialty courts include reliability as achieving it may be hard especially with co-occurring disorders. This may result due to intoxication and withdrawal factors. Validity is also vital in identifying co-occurring disorders as it enables the identification of individuals with mental health or with problems of substance abuse or those without any problems. In addition, it is also important to establish the validity of using various screening instruments in different criminal justice settings since not all mental health instruments have been authorized to be used in all criminal settings (Peters et al, 2008, p. 31).


Peters, R.H., Bartoi, M.G., &Sherman, P.B. (2008). Screening and assessment of co-         occurring disorders in the justice system. Delmar, NY: CMHS National             GAINS Center.

Robertson S. (2008). Baker Act Information. Clerk of Circuit Court. Retrieved February     24, 2009 from