Code of the District of Columbia

Subchapter III. Emergency Hospitalization.


§ 21–521. Detention of persons believed to be mentally ill; transportation and application to hospital.

An accredited officer or agent of the Department of Mental Health of the District of Columbia, or an officer authorized to make arrests in the District of Columbia, or a physician or qualified psychologist of the person in question, who has reason to believe that a person is mentally ill and, because of the illness, is likely to injure himself or others if he is not immediately detained may, without a warrant, take the person into custody, transport him to a public or private hospital, or to the Department, and make application for his admission thereto for purposes of emergency observation and diagnosis. The application shall reveal the circumstances under which the person was taken into custody and the reasons therefor.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 753, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 567, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 150(c)(2); Feb. 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48,§ 11(a)(8), 30 DCR 5778; Apr. 30, 1988, D.C. Law 7-104, § 6(f), 35 DCR 147; Dec. 18, 2001, D.C. Law 14-56, § 116(g)(1), 48 DCR 7674; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(h), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-521.

1973 Ed., § 21-521.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 7-1203.03, § 16-2315, § 21-522, and § 21-582.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-56 substituted “Department of Mental Health” for “Department of Human Services”.

D.C. Law 14-283 added “, or to the Department” after “or private hospital”.

Cross References

Annulment of marriage, § 46-404.

Condemnation of insanitary buildings, appointment of guardian ad litem, see § 6-909.

Conservator, guardian in proceedings for appointment, see § 21-2041 et seq.

Emergency disclosure of mental health information, see § 7-1203.03.

Militia service exemption, see § 49-401.

Personal property schedule filing, persons under disability, see § 47-1601.

Physician or qualified psychologist related by blood or marriage to alleged mentally ill person, power to apply or certify mental status, see § 21-582.

Property of mentally ill persons, see § 21-2001 et seq.

Real estate leases, mentally ill person’s rights, see § 42-3222 et seq.

Redemption from tax sale, removal of disability, see § 47-1304.

Release of dower, see § 19-107a.

St. Elizabeths Hospital, commitment of mentally ill persons, see §§ 21-901 et seq., 44-901 et seq.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 16(g)(1) of Department of Mental Health Establishment Emergency Amendment Act of 2001 (D.C. Act 14-55, May 2, 2001, 48 DCR 4390).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 16(g)(1) of Department of Mental Health Establishment Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2001 (D.C. Act 14-101, July 23, 2001, 48 DCR 7123).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 116(g)(1) of Mental Health Service Delivery Reform Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2001 (D.C. Act 14-144, October 23, 2001, 48 DCR 9947).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(g) 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(g) 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, see § 2(h) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-546, December 12, 2002, 50 DCR 199).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(h) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 50 DCR 2784).

Temporary Legislation

Section 16(g)(1) of D.C. Law 14-51 substituted “Department of Mental Health” for “Department of Human Services” in the first sentence.

Section 19(b) of D.C. Law 14-51 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.

Section 2(g) of D.C. Law 14-131, in the first sentence, added “, or to the Department,” following “or private hospital”.

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


§ 21–522. Examination and admission to hospital; notice.

(a) Subject to the provisions of section 21-523, the administrator of a private hospital may, and the administrator of a public hospital or the chief clinical officer of the Department or his designee shall, admit and detain for purposes of emergency observation and diagnosis a person with respect to whom application is made under section 21-521, if the application is accompanied by a certificate of a psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist on duty at the hospital or the Department stating that he or she:

(1) Has examined the person;

(2) Is of the opinion that the person has symptoms of a mental illness and, because of the mental illness, is likely to injure himself or others unless the person is immediately detained; and

(3) Is of the opinion that hospitalization is the least restrictive form of treatment available to prevent the person from injuring himself or others.

(b) Subject to the provisions of section 21-523, the chief clinical officer of the Department shall admit and detain, for purposes of emergency observation and diagnosis at a facility certified by the Department for emergency detention, a person with respect to whom application is made under section 21-521, if the application is accompanied by a certificate of a psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist on duty at the Department stating that he or she:

(1) Has examined the person;

(2) Is of the opinion that the person has symptoms of a mental illness and, because of the mental illness, is likely to injure himself or others unless the person is immediately detained;

(3) Is of the opinion that hospitalization is not the least restrictive form of treatment available to ensure that the person will not injure himself or others; and

(4) Is of the opinion that detention in a certified facility for observation and diagnosis is the least restrictive treatment alternative to prevent the person from injuring himself or others.

(c) If the psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist determines, after examining the person who has been presented for emergency observation and diagnosis, that the person is not mentally ill, not likely to injure himself or others unless immediately detained, or that hospitalization or detention in a facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis is not the least restrictive form of treatment, the psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist shall not admit the person to the hospital or facility as an inpatient and shall facilitate the person’s outpatient treatment through the Department or a provider, as appropriate.

(d) Immediately upon the admission of a mentally ill person to a hospital pursuant to this subchapter, the administrator of the hospital shall notify the chief clinical officer of the Department of the admission by telephone, telefax, or electronically. Not later than 24 hours after the admission pursuant to this subchapter, the administrator of the hospital or the chief clinical officer of the Department shall serve notice of the admission to the Commission, the parent or legal guardian of a person under 18 years of age who was admitted pursuant to this subchapter, and, if authorized by the person who was admitted to the hospital or the Department consistent with the provisions of the District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act of 1978, effective March 3, 1979 (D.C. Law 2-136; D.C. Official Code § 7-1201.01 et seq.), to the spouse or domestic partner, parent of an admitted person who is 18 years of age or older, or legal guardian of the person.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 753, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Feb. 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48, § 11(a)(9), 30 DCR 5778; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(i), 50 DCR 917; Sept. 12, 2008, D.C. Law 17-231, § 22(c), 55 DCR 6758.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-522.

1973 Ed., § 21-522.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-501, § 21-523, and § 21-524.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 rewrote the section which had read as follows: “§ 21-522. Examination and admission to hospital; notice.” “Subject to the provisions of section 21-523, the administrator of a private hospital, may, and the administrator of a public hospital shall, admit and detain for purposes of emergency observation and diagnosis a person with respect to whom application is made under section 21-521, if the application is accompanied by a certificate of a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist on duty at the hospital stating that he has examined the person and is of the opinion that he has symptoms of a mental illness and, as a result thereof, is likely to injure himself or others unless he is immediately hospitalized. Not later than 24 hours after the admission pursuant to this subchapter of a person to a hospital, the administrator of the hospital shall serve notice of the admission, by registered mail, to the spouse, parent, or legal guardian of the person and to the Commission on Mental Health.”

D.C. Law 17-231, in subsec. (d), substituted “spouse or domestic partner” for “spouse”.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(h) 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(h) 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, see § 2(i) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-546, December 12, 2002, 50 DCR 199).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(i) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 50 DCR 2784).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(h) of D.C. Law 14-131 amended this section to read as follows:

“(a) Subject to the provisions of section 21-523, the administrator of a private hospital may, and the administrator of a public hospital or the chief clinical officer of the Department or his designee shall, admit and detain for purposes of emergency observation and diagnosis a person with respect to whom application is made under section 21-521, if the application is accompanied by a certificate of a psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist on duty at the hospital or the Department stating that he:

“(2) Is of the opinion that the person has symptoms of a mental illness and, because of the mental illness, is likely to injure himself or others unless the person is immediately hospitalized; and

“(3) Is of the opinion that hospitalization is the least restrictive form of treatment available to prevent the person from injuring himself or others.

“(b) Subject to the provisions of section 21-523, the chief clinical officer of the Department shall admit and detain, for purposes of emergency observation and diagnosis at a facility certified by the Department for emergency detention, a person with respect to whom application is made under section 21-521, if the application is accompanied by a certificate of a psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist on duty at the Department stating that he:

“(1) Has examined the person;

“(2) Is of the opinion that the person has symptoms of a mental illness and, because of the mental illness, is likely to injure himself or others unless the person is immediately detained;

“(3) Is of the opinion that hospitalization is not the least restrictive form of treatment available to ensure that the person will not injure himself or others; and

“(4) Is of the opinion that detention in a certified facility for observation and diagnosis is the least restrictive treatment alternative to prevent the person from injuring himself or others.

“(c) If the psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist determines, after examining the person who has been presented for emergency observation and diagnosis, that the person is not mentally ill, not likely to injure himself or others unless immediately detained, or that hospitalization or detention in a facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis is not the least restrictive form of treatment, the psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist shall not admit the person to the hospital or facility as an inpatient and shall facilitate the person’s outpatient treatment through the Department or a provider, as appropriate.

“(d) Immediately upon the admission of a mentally ill person to a hospital pursuant to this subchapter, the administrator of the hospital shall notify the chief clinical officer of the Department of the admission by telephone, telefax, or electronically. Not later than 24 hours after the admission pursuant to this subchapter, the administrator of the hospital or the chief clinical officer of the Department shall serve notice of the admission to the spouse, parent, or legal guardian of the person and to the Commission on Mental Health, if authorized by the person who was admitted to the hospital or the Department consistent with the provisions of the District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act of 1978, effective March 3, 1979 (D.C. Law 2-136; D.C. Official Code § 7-1201.01 et seq.).”

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


§ 21–523. Court order requirement for hospital detention beyond 48 hours; maximum period for observation.

A person admitted to a hospital or the Department under section 21-522 may not be detained in the hospital or by the Department for a period in excess of 48 hours from the time of the person’s admission, unless the administrator of the hospital, the chief clinical officer of the Department, or the administrator’s or chief clinical officer’s designee has, within that period, filed a written petition with the court for an order authorizing the continued detention of the person for emergency observation and diagnosis for a period not to exceed 7 days from the time the order is entered.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 753, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(j), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-523.

1973 Ed., § 21-523.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-522, § 21-524, and § 21-526.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 rewrote the section which had read as follows: “§ 21-523. Court order requirement for hospital detention beyond 48 hours; maximum period for observation.” “A person admitted to a hospital under section 21-522 may not be detained in the hospital for a period in excess of 48 hours from the time of his admission, unless the administrator of the hospital has, within that period, filed a written petition with the court for an order authorizing the continued hospitalization of the person for emergency observation and diagnosis for a period not to exceed 7 days from the time the order is entered.”

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(i) 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(i) 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, see § 2(j) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-546, December 12, 2002, 50 DCR 199).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(j) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 50 DCR 2784).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(i) of D.C. Law 14-131 amended this section to read as follows: “A person admitted to a hospital or the Department under section 21-522 may not be detained in the hospital or by the Department for a period in excess of 48 hours from the time of the person’s admission, unless the administrator of the hospital, the chief clinical officer of the Department, or the administrator’s or chief clinical officer’s designee has, within that period, filed a written petition with the court for an order authorizing the continued hospitalization of the person for emergency observation and diagnosis for a period not to exceed 7 days from the time the order is entered.”

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


§ 21–524. Determination and order of court.

(a) Within a period of 24 hours after the court receives a petition for hospitalization of a person for emergency observation and diagnosis, filed by the administrator of a hospital or chief clinical officer of the Department pursuant to section 21-523, the court shall:

(1) order the hospitalization; or

(2) order the person’s immediate release.

(b) The court, in making its determination under this section, shall consider the written reports of the agent, officer, physician or qualified psychologist who made the application under section 21-522, the certificate of the examining psychiatrist or examining qualified psychologist which accompanied it, and any other relevant information.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 754, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Feb. 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48, § 11(a)(10), 30 DCR 5778; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(k), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-524.

1973 Ed., § 21-524.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-525, § 21-526, and § 21-527.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283, in subsec. (a), substituted “administrator of a hospital or chief clinical officer of the Department” for “administrator of a hospital”.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(j) 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(k) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-546, December 12, 2002, 50 DCR 199).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(j) 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, see § 2(k) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 50 DCR 2784).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(j) of D.C. Law 14-131, in subsec. (a), substituted “administrator of a hospital or chief clinical officer of the Department” for “administrator of a hospital”.

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


§ 21–525. Hearing by court.

The court shall grant a hearing to a person whose continued hospitalization is ordered under section 21-524 , if he requests the hearing. The hearing shall be held within 24 hours after receipt of the request.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 754, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-525.

1973 Ed., § 21-525.

Law Review and Journal Commentaries Camouflaged Legitimacy: Civil Commitment, Property Rights, and Legal Isolation. Valerie L. Collins, 52 Howard Law Journal 407 (2009).

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-526 and § 24-531.07.


§ 21–526. Extension of maximum periods of time.

(a) If the maximum period of time prescribed by section 21-512, 21-523, 21-524, 21-525 or 21-548, during which an action or determination may or shall be taken, expires on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the period may be extended to not later than noon of the next succeeding day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.

(b) If the maximum period of time prescribed by the sections listed in subsection (a) of this section expires between 12:01 a.m. and 12:00 noon on a Monday or the next business day following a legal holiday, the period shall be extended until 12:00 noon of that day, or, when the maximum period of time prescribed by the sections listed in subsection (a) of this section expires on a legal holiday, the period shall be extended until 12:00 noon of the next business day.

(c) The maximum period of time for detention for emergency observation and diagnosis may be extended for up to 21 days, if judicial proceedings under subchapter IV of this chapter have been commenced before the expiration of the order entered under section 21-524 and a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist has examined the person who is the subject of the judicial proceedings and is of the opinion that the person being detained remains mentally ill and is likely to injure himself or others as a result of the illness unless the emergency detention is continued. For good cause shown, the Court may extend the period of detention for emergency observation and diagnosis. The period of detention for emergency observation and diagnosis may be extended pursuant to section 21-543(b) or following a hearing before the Commission pursuant to subsections (d) and (e) of this section.

(d) If the Commission, at the conclusion of its hearing pursuant to section 21-542, has found that the person with respect to whom the hearing was held is mentally ill and, because of the mental illness, is likely to injure himself or others if not committed, and has concluded that a recommendation of inpatient commitment is the least restrictive alternative available to prevent the person from injuring himself or others, the detention for emergency observation and diagnosis may be continued by the Department or hospital —

(1) Pending the conclusion of judicial proceedings under subchapter IV of this chapter;

(2) Until the Court enters an order discharging the person; or

(3) Until the Department or hospital determines that continued hospitalization is no longer the least restrictive form of treatment appropriate for the person being detained.

(e) If the Commission, at the conclusion of its hearing, finds that the person is mentally ill, is likely to injure himself or other persons as a result of mental illness if not committed, and that outpatient treatment is the least restrictive form of commitment appropriate, then, within 14 days of the date of the hearing, the person shall be discharged from inpatient status and shall receive outpatient mental health services or mental health supports as an emergency nonvoluntary patient consistent with this subchapter, pending the conclusion of judicial proceedings under subchapter IV of this chapter.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 754, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; June 30, 1989, D.C. Law 8-15, § 2, 36 DCR 3695; April 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283,§ 2(l)(1), 50 DCR 917; Dec. 10, 2004, 118 Stat. 3473, Pub. L. 108-450, § 4.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-526.

1973 Ed., § 21-526.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-527 and § 21-548.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283, in subsec. (a), substituted “ section 21-512, 21-523, 21-524, 21-525 or 21-548” for “ section 21-512, 21-523, 21-524, or 21-525”.

Pub. L. 108-450 added subsecs. (c), (d), and (e).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) addition of applicability provision for § 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(k) 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(k) 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(l) 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) amendment of section, see §§ 2(l) and (3) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 50 DCR 2784).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(k) of D.C. Law 14-131, in subsec. (a), substituted “ section 21-512, 21-523, 21-524, 21-525 or 21-548” for “ section 21-512, 21-523, 21-524, or 21-525”; and added subsecs. (c), (d) and (e) to read as follows:

“(c) The maximum period of time for detention for emergency observation and diagnosis may be extended for up to 14 days, if judicial proceedings under subchapter IV of this chapter have been commenced before the expiration of the order entered under section 21-524 and a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist has examined the person who is the subject of the judicial proceedings and is of the opinion that the person being detained remains mentally ill and is likely to injure himself or others as a result of the illness unless the emergency detention is continued.

“(d)(1) If requested by the petitioner, the Commission, at the conclusion of its hearing pursuant to section 21-542, may immediately order the continued hospitalization of a person detained for emergency observation and diagnosis until the conclusion of judicial proceedings under subchapter IV of this chapter, but only after the Commission has:

“(A) Found that the person with respect to whom the hearing was held is mentally ill and, because of the mental illness, is likely to injure himself or other persons if not committed; and

“(B) Concluded that a recommendation of inpatient commitment is the least restrictive alternative available to prevent the person from injuring himself or others.

“(2) If the Commission orders the continued inpatient detention of a person, it shall promptly notify the court of that fact in writing.

“(3) If requested by the petitioner at the hearing, the Commission may order the immediate transfer of the person being detained to the Department, for inpatient or outpatient mental health services or mental health supports, or may order the continued detention by the Department in a facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis, pending the conclusion of judicial proceedings under subchapter IV of this chapter. If the Commission orders the continued detention of a person or transfer of a person to the Department, it shall promptly notify the court of that fact in writing.

“(e) If requested by the petitioner, the Commission, at the conclusion of its hearing, may order that the person being detained by the Department continue to receive outpatient mental health services or mental health supports pending the conclusion of judicial proceedings under subchapter IV of this chapter, if at the conclusion of the hearing, the Commission finds that the person is mentally ill, likely to injure himself or others as a result of mental illness if not committed, and that outpatient treatment is the least restrictive form of appropriate commitment. The Commission shall promptly notify the court of the decision regarding continued outpatient services and supports in writing.” For applicability of § 2(k)(2) of D.C. Law 14-131, see note following § 21-502.

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

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.”


§ 21–527. Examination and release of person; notice.

(a)(1) The chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service of a hospital in which a person is hospitalized under a court order entered pursuant to section 21-524 shall, within 48 hours after the order is entered, have the person examined by a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist.

(2) If the psychiatrist or qualified psychologist, after his examination, certifies that in his opinion the person is not mentally ill to the extent that the person is likely to injure himself or others if not presently detained, the person shall be immediately released.

(3) After the examination required under paragraph (1) of this subsection has been completed, the chief of service of the hospital:

(A) Shall immediately notify the chief clinical officer of the Department of the results of the examination by telephone, telefax, or other electronic means;

(B) Shall immediately send a copy of the results of the examination by mail to the Commission;

(C) Shall immediately send a copy of the results of the examination by mail to the parent or legal guardian of a person under 18 years of age who was committed; and

(D) Shall, within 48 hours, send a copy of the results by mail to the spouse or domestic partner, parents, attorney, legal guardian, or nearest known adult relative of the person examined, if authorized by the person who was examined consistent with the provisions of the District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act of 1978, effective March 3, 1979 (D.C. Law 2-136; D.C. Official Code § 7-1201.01 et seq.).

(b)(1) The chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service of a hospital in which a person is detained under a court order entered pursuant to section 21-524 or under section 21-526(c) shall immediately release the person from the emergency detention in a hospital if, at any time during the detention, a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist at the hospital or the Department certifies that, based on an examination, it is his opinion that the person is no longer mentally ill to the extent that the person is likely to injure himself or others if not presently detained or that the person could be treated in a less restrictive setting.

(2) After the examination required under paragraph (1) of this subsection has been completed, the chief of service of the hospital:

(A) Shall immediately notify the chief clinical officer of the Department of the results of the examination by telephone, telefax, or other electronic means;

(B) Shall immediately send a copy of the results of the examination by mail to the Commission;

(C) Shall immediately send a copy of the results of the examination by mail to the parent or legal guardian of a person under 18 years of age who was committed; and

(D) Shall, within 48 hours, send a copy of the results by mail to the spouse or domestic partner, parents, attorney, legal guardian, or nearest known adult relative of the person examined, if authorized by the person who was examined consistent with the provisions of the District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act of 1978, effective March 3, 1979 (D.C. Law 2-136; D.C. Official Code § 7-1201.01 et seq.).


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 754, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Feb. 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48, § 11(a)(11), 30 DCR 5778; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(m), 50 DCR 917; Sept. 12, 2008, D.C. Law 17-231, § 22(d), 55 DCR 6758.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-527.

1973 Ed., § 21-527.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 rewrote the section which had read as follows: “§ 21-527. Examination and release of person; notice.” “The chief of service of a hospital in which a person is hospitalized under a court order entered pursuant to section 21-524 shall, within 48 hours after the order is entered, have the person examined by a physician or qualified psychologist. If the physician or qualified psychologist, after his examination, certifies that in his opinion the person is not mentally ill to the extent that he is likely to injure himself or others if not presently detained, the person shall be immediately released. The chief of service shall, within 48 hours after the examination has been completed, send a copy of the results thereof by certified or registered mail to the spouse, parents, attorney, legal guardian, or nearest known adult relative of the person examined.”

D.C. Law 17-231 substituted “spouse or domestic partner” for “spouse”.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(l) 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(l) 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, see § 2(m) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-546, December 12, 2002, 50 DCR 199).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(m) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 50 DCR 2784).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(l) of D.C. Law 14-131 amended this section to read as follows:

“(a) The chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service of a hospital in which a person is hospitalized under a court order entered pursuant to section 21-524 shall, within 48 hours after the order is entered, have the person examined by a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist. If the psychiatrist or qualified psychologist, after his examination, certifies that in his opinion the person is not mentally ill to the extent that the person is likely to injure himself or others if not presently detained, the person shall be immediately released. The chief of service shall immediately notify the chief clinical officer of the Department of the results of the examination by telephone, telefax, or other electronic means and shall, within 48 hours after the examination has been completed, send a copy of the results by mail to the spouse, parents, attorney, legal guardian, or nearest known adult relative of the person examined, if authorized by the person who is hospitalized consistent with the provisions of the District of Columbia Mental Health Act of 1978, effective March 3, 1979 (D.C. Law 2-136; D.C. Official Code § 7-1201.01 et seq.).

“(b) The chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service of a hospital in which a person is detained under a court order entered pursuant to section 21-524 or under section 21-526(c) shall immediately release the person from the emergency detention in a hospital if, at any time during the detention, a psychiatrist or psychologist at the hospital or the Department certifies that, based on an examination, it is his opinion that the person is no longer mentally ill to the extent that the person is likely to injure himself or others if not presently detained or that the person could be treated in a less restrictive setting. The chief of service shall immediately notify the chief clinical officer of the Department of the results of the examination by telephone, telefax, or other electronic means and shall, within 48 hours after the examination has been completed, send a copy of the results by mail to the spouse, parents, attorney, legal guardian, or nearest known adult relative of the person examined, if authorized by the person who was examined consistent with the provisions of the District of Columbia Mental Health Act of 1978, effective March 3, 1979 (D.C. Law 2-136; D.C. Official Code § 7-1201.01 et seq.).”

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


§ 21–528. Detention of person pending judicial proceedings.

Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, the administrator of a hospital in which a person is hospitalized under this subchapter may, if judicial proceedings for his hospitalization have been commenced under subchapter IV of this chapter, detain the person in the hospital during the course of the judicial proceedings.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 754, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-528.

1973 Ed., § 21-528.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 substituted “commitment” for “hospitalization”.

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) repeal of section, see § 2(m) of Mental Health Commitment Emergency Amendment Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-265, January 30, 2002, 49 DCR 1450).

For temporary (90 day) repeal of section, see § 2(m) 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) repeal of section applicable upon the enactment of certain legislation by the United States Congress, see §§ 2(n) 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) repeal of section, see §§ 2(n) and (3) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 50 DCR 2784).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(m) of D.C. Law 14-131 repealed this section.

For applicability of § 2(m) of D.C. Law 14-131, see note following § 21-502.

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