Code of the District of Columbia

§ 21–545. Hearing and determination by court or jury; order; witnesses; jurors.

(a) Upon the receipt by the court of a report referred to in section 21-544, the court shall promptly set the matter for hearing and shall cause a written notice of the time and place of the final hearing to be served personally upon the person with respect to whom the report was made and his attorney, together with notice that he has five days following the date on which he is so served within which to demand a jury trial or a trial by the Court. The demand may be made by the person or by anyone in his behalf. If a jury trial or a trial by the Court is demanded within the five-day period, it shall be accorded by the court with all reasonable speed. If a timely demand for jury trial or a trial by the Court is not made, the court shall determine the person’s mental condition on the basis of the report of the Commission, or on such further evidence in addition to the report as the court requires.

(b)(1) If the Court or jury finds that the person is not mentally ill or is not likely to injure himself or others as a result of mental illness, the Court shall dismiss the petition and order the person’s release.

(2) If the Court or jury finds that the person is mentally ill and, because of that mental illness, is likely to injure himself or others if not committed, the Court may order the person’s commitment to the Department or to any other facility, hospital, or mental health provider that the Court believes is the least restrictive alternative consistent with the best interests of the person and the public. An order of commitment issued pursuant to this paragraph shall be for a period of one year.

(c) The psychiatrists and qualified psychologists who are members of the Commission shall be competent and compellable witnesses at a hearing or trial held pursuant to this chapter.

(d) The jury to be used in any case where a jury trial is demanded under this chapter shall be impaneled, upon order of the Court, from the jurors in attendance upon other branches of the Court, who shall perform the services in addition to and as part of their duties in the Court.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 756, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(t), 50 DCR 917; Dec. 10, 2004, 118 Stat. 3474, Pub. L. 108-450, § 6(a).)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-545.

1973 Ed., § 21-545.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 7-1131.04, § 7-1131.07, § 7-1231.14, § 21-545.01, § 21-546, § 21-548, § 21-551, § 21-561, and § 21-589.01.

Effect of Amendments

Pub. L. 108-450, in subsec. (a), substituted “jury trial or a trial by the Court” for “jury trial”; rewrote subsec. (b); and added subsecs. (c) and (d). Prior to amendment, subsec. (b) had read as follows: “(b) If the court or jury, as the case may be, finds that the person is not mentally ill, the court shall dismiss the petition and order his release. If the court or jury finds that the person is mentally ill and, because of that illness, is likely to injure himself or other persons if allowed to remain at liberty, the court may order his hospitalization for an indeterminate period, or order any other alternative course of treatment which the court believes will be in the best interests of the person or of the public. The Commission, or a member thereof, shall be competent and compellable witnesses at a hearing or jury trial held pursuant to this chapter. The jury to be used in any case where a jury trial is demanded under this chapter shall be impaneled, upon order of the court, from the jurors in attendance upon other branches of the court, who shall perform the services in addition to and as part of their duties in the court.”

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) addition of applicability provision of § 2(d), (k)(2), (m), (q)(3) and (4), (s), and (t) of D.C. Act 14-265, see § 4 of Mental Health Commitment Emergency Amendment Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-265, January 30, 2002, 49 DCR 1450).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(s) of Mental Health Commitment Emergency Amendment Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-265, January 30, 2002, 49 DCR 1450).

For temporary (90 day) addition of § 21-545.01, see § 2(t) of Mental Health Commitment Emergency Amendment Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-265, January 30, 2002, 49 DCR 1450).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(s) of Mental Health Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-350, April 24, 2002, 49 DCR 4417).

For temporary (90 day) addition of § 21-545.01, see § 2(t) of Mental Health Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-350, April 24, 2002, 49 DCR 4417).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section applicable upon the enactment of certain legislation by the United States Congress, see §§ 2(t) and 3 of Mental Health Civil Commitment Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-546, December 12, 2002, 50 DCR 199).

For temporary (90 day) addition of § 21-545.01 applicable upon the enactment of certain legislation by the United States Congress, see §§ 2(u) and 3 of Mental Health Civil Commitment Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-546, December 12, 2002, 50 DCR

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(s) of D.C. Law 14-131, in subsec. (a), substituted “jury trial or a trial by the court” for “jury trial” wherever it appeared; and amended subsec. (b) to read as follows:

“(b) If the court or jury finds that the person is not mentally ill or is not likely to injure himself or others as a result of mental illness, the court shall dismiss the petition and order the person’s release. If the court or jury finds that the person is mentally ill and, because of that mental illness, is likely to injure himself or others if not committed, the court may order the person’s commitment to the Department or to any other facility, hospital, or mental health provider, which the court believes is the least restrictive alternative consistent with the best interests of the person and the public. The period of commitment shall not exceed one year. The physician-members and psychologist-members of the Commission shall be competent and compellable witnesses at a hearing or trial held pursuant to this chapter. The jury to be used in any case where a jury trial is demanded under this chapter shall be impaneled, upon order of the court, from the jurors in attendance upon other branches of the court, who shall perform the services in addition to and as part of their duties in the court. ” For applicability of § 2(s) of D.C. Law 14-131, see note following § 21-502.

Section 2(t) of D.C. Law 14-131 added § 21-545.01 to read as follows:

§ 21-545.01. Renewal of commitment status by Commission; review by court.

“(a) At least 60 days prior to the expiration of an order of commitment issued pursuant to section 21-545, the chief clinical officer of the Department, or the chief of service of the facility, hospital, or mental health provider to which the person is committed may petition the Commission for a renewal of the order of commitment for that person. The petition shall be supported by a certificate of a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist stating that he has examined the person and is of the opinion that the person is mentally ill, and because of the illness is likely to injure himself or other persons if not committed. The term of the renewed commitment order shall not exceed the length of the original term of commitment.

“(b) Within 3 days after the Commission receives a petition filed under subsection (a) of this section, the Commission shall send a copy of the petition and supporting certificate by registered mail to the person with respect to whom it was filed. The Commission shall send a copy of the petition and supporting certificate to the person’s attorney within 3 days after the petition is filed.

“(c) The Commission shall promptly examine a person for whom a petition is filed under subsection (a) of this section, and, in accordance with the procedures described in sections 21-542 and 21-543, shall thereafter promptly hold a hearing on the issue of the person’s mental illness and whether, as a result of a mental illness, the person is likely to injure himself or other persons if not committed.

“(d) If the Commission finds, after a hearing under subsection (c) of this section, that the person with respect to whom the hearing was held is no longer mentally ill, or is not mentally ill to the extent that the person is likely to injure himself or other persons if not committed, the Commission shall immediately order the termination of the commitment and notify the court of that fact in writing. If the Commission finds, after the hearing, that the person with respect to whom the hearing was held remains mentally ill to the extent that the person is likely to injure himself or others if not committed, the Commission shall order the renewal of the commitment of the person for an additional term not to exceed the length of the original commitment, and shall promptly report that fact, in writing, to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The report shall contain the Commission’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. A copy of the report of the Commission shall be served by registered mail on the person with respect to whom the hearing was held and by mail on the person’s attorney.

“(e) A person for whom the Commission orders renewed commitment pursuant to subsection (d) of this section may seek a review of the Commission’s decision by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, pursuant to D.C. Official Code § 11-1732, and the Commission, orally and in writing, shall advise the person of this right.”

Section 5(b) of D.C. Law 14-131 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.

Editor's Notes

For applicability of D.C. Law 14-131, see note following § 21-502.

Section 6(b) of Pub. L. 108-450, 118 Stat. 3472, the District of Columbia Mental Health Civil Commitment Modernization Act of 2004, provided: “Effective Date.—The amendments made by this section shall apply with respect to trials under section 21-545, District of Columbia Code, which are initiated on or after the date of the enactment of this Act.” Applicability of §§ 2(d), (e), (l)(2), (n), (r)(3) and (4), (t), and (u) of Law 14-283: Section 3 of Law 14-283 provided that section 2(d), (e), (l)(2), (n), (r)(3) and (4), (t), and (u) shall apply upon the enactment of legislation by the United States Congress that states the following: “Notwithstanding any other law, section 2(d), (e), (l)(2), (r)(3) and (4), (t), and (u) of the Mental Health Civil Commitment Act of 2002, adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia, is enacted into law.”