Code of the District of Columbia

Subchapter IV. Commitment Under Court Order.


§ 21–541. Petition to Commission; copy to person affected.

(a) Proceedings for the judicial commitment of a person in the District of Columbia may be commenced by the filing of a petition with the Commission by his spouse, parent, or legal guardian, by a physician or a qualified psychologist, by a duly accredited officer or agent of the Department, by the Director of the Department or the Director’s designee, or by an officer authorized to make arrests in the District of Columbia. The petition shall be accompanied by:

(1) a certificate of a physician 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; or

(2) a sworn written statement by the petitioner that:

(A) the petitioner has good reason to believe that the person is mentally ill, and, because of the illness, is likely to injure himself or other persons if not committed; and

(B) the person has refused to submit to examination by a physician or qualified psychologist.

(b) Within three days after the Department receives a petition filed under subsection (a) of this section, the Department shall send a copy of the petition by registered mail to the person with respect to whom it was filed.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 754, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Feb. 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48, § 11(a)(12), 30 DCR 5778; Apr. 30, 1988, D.C. Law 7-104, § 6(g), 35 DCR 147; Dec. 18, 2001, D.C. Law 14-56, § 116(g)(2), 48 DCR 7674; April 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(p), 50 DCR 917; Mar. 13, 2004, D.C. Law 15-105, § 57, 51 DCR 881.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-541.

1973 Ed., § 21-541.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 7-1204.02, § 21-542, § 21-582, § 24-531.02, and § 24-531.07.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-56, in subsec. (a), substituted “Department of Mental Health” for “Department of Human Services”.

D.C. Law 14-283 rewrote the introductory paragraph of subsec. (a); in par. (1) of subsec. (a), substituted “not committed” for “allowed to remain at liberty”; and in par. (2)(A) of subsec. (a), substituted “not committed” for “allowed to remain at liberty”. Prior to amendment, the introductory paragraph of subsec. (a) had read as follows: “(a) Proceedings for the judicial hospitalization of a person in the District of Columbia may be commenced by the filing of a petition with the Department of Mental Health by his spouse, parent, or legal guardian, by a physician or a qualified psychologist, by a duly accredited officer or agent of the Department of Mental Health, or by an officer authorized to make arrests in the District of Columbia. The petition shall be accompanied by:”

D.C. Law 15-105 validated previously made technical corrections.

Cross References

Criminally insane persons, payment of hospital expenses, see § 24-501.

Information needed for civil commitment proceedings, see § 7-1204.02.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 116(g)(2) 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 § 16(g)(2) 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)(2) 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 § 2(o) 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(o) 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(p) 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(p) 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)(2) of D.C. Law 14-51, in subsec. (a), substituted “Department of Mental Health” for “Department of Human Services”.

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(o) of D.C. Law 14-131, in subsec. (a), in the introductory language, substituted “commitment” for “hospitalization”; and in pars. (1) and (2)(A), substituted “not committed” for “allowed to remain at liberty”.

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


§ 21–542. Hearing by Commission; presence and rights of person affected; hearing regarding liability.

(a) The Commission shall promptly examine a person alleged to be mentally ill after the filing of a petition under section 21-541 and shall thereafter promptly hold a hearing on the issue of his mental illness. The hearing shall be conducted in a manner consistent with orderly procedure and in a physical setting not likely to have a harmful effect on the mental health of the person named in such petition. In conducting the hearing, the Commission shall hear testimony of any person whose testimony may be relevant and shall receive all relevant evidence which may be offered. A person with respect to whom a hearing is held under this section may, in his discretion, be present at the hearing, to testify, and to present and cross-examine witnesses.

(b) The Commission shall also hold a hearing in order to determine liability under the provisions of section 21-586 for the expenses of commitment of the alleged mentally ill person, if it is determined that he is mentally ill and should be committed as provided under this chapter. The hearing may be conducted separately from the hearing on the issue of mental illness. If conducted separately, it may be conducted by the Chairman of the Commission alone.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 755, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(q), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-542.

1973 Ed., § 21-542.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-526, § 21-544, § 21-545.01, and § 24-531.07.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283, in subsec. (a), substituted “a manner” for “as informal a manner as may be”; and in subsec. (b), substituted “commitment” for “hospitalization” and substituted “committed” for “hospitalized”.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(p) 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(p) 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(q) 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(q) 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(p) of D.C. Law 14-131, in subsec. (b), in the first sentence, substituted “commitment” for “hospitalization”, and “committed” for “hospitalized”.

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


§ 21–543. Representation by counsel; compensation; recess.

(a) The person alleged to be mentally ill and, because of the mental illness, likely to injure himself or others shall be represented by counsel in any proceeding before the Commission or the court, and if he fails or refuses to obtain counsel, the court shall appoint counsel to represent him. The counsel so appointed shall be awarded compensation by the court for his services in an amount determined by it to be fair and reasonable. The compensation shall be charged against the estate of the individual for whom the counsel was appointed, or against any unobligated funds of the Commission, as the court in its discretion directs. The Commission or the court, as the case may be, shall, at the request of the counsel so appointed, grant a recess in the proceeding to give the counsel an opportunity to prepare his case.

(b) The Commission may not grant a continuance for counsel to prepare his case for more than 5 days. The Commission may grant continuances for good cause shown for periods of up to 14 days. If the Commission grants a continuance, the emergency observation and detention of the person about whom the hearing is being held shall be extended for the duration of the continuance.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 755, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; April 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(r)(1), (2), 50 DCR 917; Dec. 10, 2004, 118 Stat. 3474, Pub. L. 108-450, § 5.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-543.

1973 Ed., § 21-543.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-526 and § 21-545.01.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 designated the existing text as subsection (a); and in the newly designated subsec. (a), substituted “person alleged to be mentally ill and, because of the mental illness, likely to injure himself or others” for “alleged mentally ill person”.

Pub. L. 108-450, deleted the last sentence in subsec. (a); and added subsec. (b). The last sentence of subsec. (a) had read as follows: “A recess may not be granted for more than five days.”

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. Law 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(q) 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(q) 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(r) 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(r) 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(q) of D.C. Law 14-131 designated the existing text as subsec. (a); substituted “person alleged to be mentally ill and, because of the mental illness, likely to injure himself or others” for “alleged mentally ill person”; deleted the last sentence; and added subsec. (b) to read as follows:

“(b) The Commission may not grant a recess for counsel to prepare his case for more than 5 days. The Commission may, with the consent of the parties, grant a recess for good cause shown for a period of up to 14 days. If the Commission grants a continuance, the Commission also may authorize the extension of the emergency observation and detention of the person about whom the hearing is being held for the duration of the continuance.” For applicability of § 2(q)(3) and (4) 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

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

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.”


§ 21–544. Determinations of Commission; report to court; copy to person affected; right to jury trial.

If the Commission finds, after a hearing under section 21-542 , that the person with respect to whom the hearing was held is not mentally ill or if mentally ill, is not mentally ill to the extent that he is likely to injure himself or other persons if not committed, the Commission shall immediately order his release 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 is mentally ill, and because of the illness is likely to injure himself or other persons if not committed, the Commission 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, conclusions of law, and recommendations. A copy of the report of the Commission shall be served personally on the person with respect to whom the hearing was held and his attorney. A person with respect to whom the hearing was held with respect to whom the report is made has the right to demand a jury trial, and the Commission, orally and in writing, shall advise him of this right.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 755, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 567, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 150(c)(3); Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(s), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-544.

1973 Ed., § 21-544.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-545.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 substituted “not committed” for “allowed to remain at liberty”, substituted “person with respect to whom the hearing was held” for “alleged mentally ill person”, and substituted “A person” for “An alleged mentally ill person”.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(r) 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(r) 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(s) 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(s) 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(r)of D.C. Law 14-131 substituted “not committed” for “allowed to remain at liberty” wherever it appeared; in the fourth sentence, substituted “person with respect to whom the hearing was held” for “alleged mentally ill person”; and in the last sentence, substituted “A person” for “An alleged mentally ill person”.

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


§ 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.”


§ 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 or this section, 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. For good cause shown, a petition of commitment may be filed within the last 60 days of the one-year period of commitment. The petition for renewal of commitment 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 one year.

(b) Within 3 days of the filing of a petition 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 the petition was filed and by regular mail to the person’s attorney.

(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.

(e) If the Commission finds, after a hearing under subsection (c) of this section, 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 one year and shall promptly report that fact, in writing, to the Court. The report shall contain the Commission’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. A copy of the report 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.

(f) If a petition for a renewal of an order of commitment is pending at the expiration of the commitment period ordered under section 21-545 or this section, the Court may, for good cause shown, extend the period of commitment pending resolution of the renewal petition.

(g) Within the last 30 days of the period of commitment, the chief clinical officer of the Department, or the chief of service of the facility, hospital, or mental health provider to which a person is committed, shall notify the Court which ordered the person’s commitment pursuant to section 21-545 or this section of the decision not to seek renewal of commitment. Notice to the Court shall be in writing and a copy of the notice shall be mailed to the person who was committed and the person’s attorney.

(h)(1) A person for whom the Commission orders renewed commitment pursuant to subsection (e) of this section may seek a review of the Commission’s order by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and the Commission, orally and in writing, shall advise the person of this right.

(2) A review of the Commission’s order of renewed commitment, in whole or in part, may be made by a judge of the appropriate division sua sponte and shall be made upon a motion of one of the parties made pursuant to procedures established by rules of the Court. The reviewing judge shall conduct such proceedings as required by the rules of the Court.

(3) An appeal to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals may be made only after a judge of the Court has reviewed the Commission’s order of renewed commitment.


(Dec. 10, 2004, 118 Stat. 3475, Pub. L. 108-450, § 7(a).)

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-546, § 21-548, § 21-561, § 21-582, and § 21-589.01.

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.”


§ 21–546. Periodic examinations of committed patients; procedure for examination and detention or release; petition to court.

(a) A person who has been committed for treatment pursuant to section 21-545 or section 21-545.01 shall be monitored by the chief clinical officer or the chief of service for the facility, hospital, or mental health provider to which the person has been committed. In doing so, the chief or service or chief clinical officer shall:

(1) Arrange for, at least every 90 days from the date on which the order was issued under section 21-545 or the date on which the renewed period of commitment begins pursuant to an order issued under section 21-545.01, an examination of the mental health of the committed person by a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist; and

(2) Promptly consider the reports of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists conducting the examination, and order the committed person’s immediate release from the commitment if the person is no longer mentally ill to the extent that the person is likely to injure himself or other persons if not committed.

(b) At the conclusion of an examination conducted pursuant to subsection (a)(1) of this section, the psychiatrist or qualified psychologist shall:

(1) Report his opinion as to whether the committed person is mentally ill and, if mentally ill, whether the committed person is likely to injure himself or others if not committed; and

(2) Determine whether the committed person is being treated in the least restrictive alternative possible and, if not, identify the least restrictive alternative for the committed person at that time.

(c)(1) Within 180 days from the date on which the order was issued under section 21-545 or the date on which the renewed period of commitment begins pursuant to an order issued under section 21-545.01, and at the committed person’s own expense, the committed person may have an independent examination conducted by a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist obtained by the committed person. If a committed person who is indigent makes a written request for assistance with an examination under this section, the chief clinical officer shall assist the person in obtaining a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist to conduct the independent examination. A psychiatrist or qualified psychologist so obtained by an indigent person shall be compensated for his services out of any unobligated funds of the Department in an amount determined by the Department to be fair and reasonable.

(2) A psychiatrist or qualified psychologist who conducts an independent examination of the committed person under this subsection shall submit a report that includes his opinion as to whether the committed person is:

(A) Mentally ill;

(B) Likely to injure himself or others as a result of mental illness if not committed; and

(C) Being treated in the least restrictive alternative possible.

(3) If the psychiatrist or qualified psychologist who conducted the independent examination determines that the committed person is not being treated in the least restrictive alternative possible, he shall identify the least restrictive treatment appropriate for the committed person at that time.

(d)(1) If the chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service for the facility, hospital, or mental health provider, after considering the reports of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists conducting the examination pursuant to subsection (a)(1) of this section, determines that the committed person continues to be mentally ill to the extent that the person is likely to injure himself or other persons if not committed, but one or more of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists who conducted independent examinations under subsection (c) of this section reports that the committed person is not mentally ill to that extent, the committed person may request a change of status or discharge from the chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service for the facility, hospital, or mental health provider, and, if denied, may petition the court for an order directing the person’s release.

(2) If the reports of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists who have examined the committed person under subsection (a) or subsection (c) of this section identify less restrictive treatment alternatives for the committed person and the chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service for the hospital, facility, or mental health provider does not implement the less restrictive form of treatment within 30 days of receipt of the report, the committed person may petition the court for an order directing the person’s release to a less restrictive form of commitment.

(3) A petition filed with the court under this subsection shall be accompanied by the reports of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists who conducted the examinations of the committed person, whether on behalf of the Department, hospital, or provider, or on behalf of the committed person.

(e) If the chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service for the facility, hospital, or mental health provider, after considering the reports of psychiatrists or qualified psychologists conducting an examination pursuant to subsections (a)(1) or (c)(1) of this section, orders the committed person’s release from the commitment pursuant to subsections (a)(2) or (d)(1) of this section, then the chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service for the facility, hospital, or mental health provider shall promptly notify the court that ordered the commitment of that fact. If, as a result of a report of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists conducting an examination pursuant to subsections (a)(1) or (c)(1) of this section, the committed person is moved from an inpatient treatment setting to a less restrictive treatment setting, the chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service for the facility, hospital, or mental health provider shall promptly notify the court that ordered the commitment of that fact.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 756, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Feb 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48, § 11(a)(13), 30 DCR 5778; Apr. 30, 1988, D.C. Law 7-104, § 6(h), 35 DCR 147; Mar. 24, 1998, D.C. Law 12-81, § 14(i), 45 DCR 745; Dec. 18, 2001, D.C. Law 14-56, § 116(g)(3), 48 DCR 7674; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(v), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-546.

1973 Ed., § 21-546.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-547 and § 21-589.

Effect of Amendments

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

D.C. Law 14-283 rewrote the section which had read as follows: “§ 21-546. Periodic requests for examination of hospitalized patient; procedure for examination and detention or release; petition to court. ”A patient hospitalized pursuant to a court order obtained under section 21-545, or his attorney, legal guardian, spouse, parent, or other nearest adult relative, may, upon the expiration of 90 days following the order and not more frequently than every 6 months thereafter, request, in writing, the chief of service of the hospital in which the patient is hospitalized, to have a current examination of his mental condition made by one or more physicians or qualified psychologists. If the request is timely it shall be granted. The patient may, at his own expense, have a duly qualified physician or qualified psychologist participate in the examination. In the case of such a patient who is indigent, the Department of Mental Health shall, upon the written request of the patient, assist him in obtaining a duly qualified physician or qualified psychologist to participate in the examination in the patient’s behalf. A physician or qualified psychologist so obtained by an indigent patient shall be compensated for his services out of any unobligated funds of Department of Mental Health in an amount determined by it to be fair and reasonable. If the chief of service, after considering the reports of the physicians or qualified psychologists conducting the examination, determines that the patient is no longer mentally ill to the extent that he is likely to injure himself or other persons if not hospitalized, the chief of service shall order the immediate release of the patient. However, if the chief of service, after considering the reports, determines that the patient continues to be mentally ill to the extent that he is likely to injure himself or other persons if not hospitalized, but one or more of the physicians or qualified psychologists participating in the examination reports that the patient is not mentally ill to that extent, the patient may petition the court for an order directing his release. The petition shall be accompanied by the reports of the physicians or qualified psychologists who conducted the examination of the patient.”

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 16(g)(3) 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)(3) 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)(3) 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(u) 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(u) 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(v) 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(v) 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)(3) of D.C. Law 14-51 substituted “Department of Mental Health” for “Department of Human Services” throughout the section.

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

§ 21-546. Periodic examinations of committed patients; procedure for examination and detention or release; petition to court.

“(a) A person who has been committed for treatment pursuant to section 21-545 or section 21-545.01 shall be monitored by the chief clinical officer or the chief of service for the facility, hospital, or mental health provider to which the person has been committed. In doing so, the chief or service or chief clinical officer shall:

“(1) Arrange for, at least every 90 days from the date on which the order was issued under section 21-545 or section 21-545.01, an examination of the mental health of the committed person by a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist; and

“(2) Promptly consider the reports of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists conducting the examination, and order the committed person’s immediate release from the commitment if the person is no longer mentally ill to the extent that the person is likely to injure himself or other persons if not committed.

“(b) At the conclusion of an examination conducted pursuant to subsection (a)(1) of this section, the psychiatrist or qualified psychologist shall:

“(1) Report his opinion as to whether the committed person is mentally ill and, if mentally ill, whether the committed person is likely to injure himself or others if not committed; and

“(2) Determine whether the committed person is being treated in the least restrictive alternative possible and, if not, identify the least restrictive alternative for the committed person at that time.

“(c)(1) Within 180 days from the date on which the order was issued under section 21-545 or section 21-545.01 and at the committed person’s own expense, the committed person may have an independent examination conducted by a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist obtained by the committed person. If a committed person who is indigent makes a written request for assistance, the chief clinical officer shall assist the person in obtaining a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist to conduct the independent examination. A psychiatrist or qualified psychologist so obtained by an indigent person shall be compensated for his services out of any unobligated funds of the Department in an amount determined by the Department to be fair and reasonable.

“(2) A psychiatrist or qualified psychologist who conducts an independent examination of the committed person under this subsection shall submit a report that includes his opinion as to whether the committed person is:

“(A) Mentally ill;

“(B) Likely to injure himself or others as a result of mental illness if not committed; and

“(C) Being treated in the least restrictive alternative possible.

“(3) If the psychiatrist or qualified psychologist who conducted the independent examination determines that the committed person is not being treated in the least restrictive alternative possible, he shall identify the least restrictive treatment appropriate for the committed person at that time.

“(d)(1) If the chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service for the facility, hospital, or mental health provider, after considering the reports of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists conducting the examination pursuant to subsection (a)(1) of this section, determines that the committed person continues to be mentally ill to the extent that the person is likely to injure himself or other persons if not committed, but one or more of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists who conducted independent examinations under subsection (c) of this section reports that the committed person is not mentally ill to that extent, the committed person may petition the court for an order directing the person’s release.

“(2) If the reports of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists who have examined the committed person under subsection (a) or subsection (c) of this section identify less restrictive treatment alternatives for the committed person and the chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service for the hospital, facility, or mental health provider does not implement the less restrictive form of treatment within 14 days of receipt of the report, the committed person may petition the court for an order directing the person’s release to a less restrictive form of commitment.

“(3) The petition filed with the court under this subsection shall be accompanied by the reports of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists who conducted the examinations of the committed person, whether on behalf of the Department, hospital, or provider, or on behalf of the committed person.”

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

References in Text

Section 21-545.01, referred to in subsecs. (a), (a)(1), and (c)(1), is enacted only upon enactment of certain legislation by the United States Congress.


§ 21–547. Judicial determination of petition filed under section 21-546; order; psychiatrists and qualified psychologists as witnesses.

(a) In considering a petition filed under section 21-546, the court shall consider the testimony of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists who participated in the examination of the committed person, and the reports of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists accompanying the petition. After considering the testimony and reports, the court shall either:

(1) Reject the petition and order the continued commitment of the person; or

(2) Order the chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service for the hospital, facility, or mental health provider to immediately implement the least restrictive treatment or immediately release the committed person from the commitment.

(b) A psychiatrist or qualified psychologist participating in the examination of the committed person shall be a competent and compellable witness at any trial or hearing held pursuant to this chapter.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 757, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Feb. 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48, § 11(a)(14), 30 DCR 5778; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(w), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-547.

1973 Ed., § 21-547.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 rewrote the section which had read as follows: “§ 21-547. Judicial determination of petition filed under section 21-546; order; physicians and qualified psychologists as witnesses.” “In considering a petition filed under section 21-546, the court shall consider the testimony of the physicians or qualified psychologists who participated in the examination of the patient, and the reports of the physicians or qualified psychologists accompanying the petition. After considering the testimony and reports, the court shall either (1) reject the petition and order the continued hospitalization of the patient, or (2) order the chief of service to immediately release the patient. A physician or qualified psychologist participating in the examination shall be a competent and compellable witness at any trial or hearing held pursuant to this chapter.”

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(v) 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(v) 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(w) 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(w) 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(v) of D.C. Law 14-131 amended this section to read as follows:

“(a) In considering a petition filed under section 21-546, the court shall consider the testimony of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists who participated in the examination of the committed person, and the reports of the psychiatrists or qualified psychologists accompanying the petition. After considering the testimony and reports, the court shall either:

“(1) Reject the petition and order the continued commitment of the person; or

“(2) Order the chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service for the hospital, facility, or mental health provider to immediately implement the least restrictive treatment or immediately release the committed person from the commitment.

“(b) A psychiatrist or qualified psychologist participating in the examination of the committed person shall be a competent and compellable witness at any trial or hearing held pursuant to this chapter.”

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


§ 21–548. Request for revocation of outpatient status; confinement pending decision on revocation of outpatient status; hearing on outpatient revocation petition.

(a) A person who has been committed under section 21-545 or section 21-545.01 and is receiving outpatient treatment may be transferred to a more restrictive treatment setting, including inpatient hospitalization, or a facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis, pursuant to a court order, after a hearing, upon the court finding, based upon clear and convincing evidence, that:

(1) The person who is committed has failed to comply with a material condition of his outpatient treatment and a more restrictive treatment alternative is required to prevent the person from injuring himself or others; or

(2) There has been a significant change in the mental illness of the person who is committed and a more restrictive treatment alternative is required to prevent the person from injuring himself or others.

(b)(1) If the Department, hospital, facility, or mental health provider providing treatment to a person committed under section 21-545 or section 21-545.01 determines that a committed person who is receiving outpatient treatment is, as a result of mental illness, likely to injure himself or others if he is not immediately detained, the chief clinical officer of the Department, or his designee, or the chief of service of a hospital, facility, or mental health provider, may take the committed person into custody and transfer the person to an inpatient hospital setting or a facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis, or may request that an officer authorized to make arrests in the District of Columbia take the committed person into custody and transfer the person to an inpatient hospital setting or to a facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis. If the committed person is hospitalized or detained at a facility not operated by the Department, the chief of service, or his designee, from that hospital or facility shall immediately notify the chief clinical officer for the Department of the admission by telephone.

(2) Within 24 hours of a committed person’s transfer from outpatient to inpatient treatment, the Department, the hospital, or the facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis where the person is detained shall notify the court of:

(A) The committed person’s detention and provide the court with a detailed affidavit reciting the circumstances of the person’s transfer from outpatient status;

(B) The recent actions of the committed person that brought about the inpatient detention; and

(C) If known, whether the hospital, facility, or the Department has determined whether to seek a revocation of the committed person’s outpatient status for a period of more than 5 days.

(3) Within 24 hours of the committed person’s transfer to a more restrictive treatment setting, the hospital or facility shall give the committed person a copy of the notice and affidavit filed with the court as well as written notice of the person’s rights to release or to an adversarial judicial hearing. The hospital or facility shall notify the attorney of record of the committed person’s hospitalization or transfer to a facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis and provide the attorney with a copy of the notice and affidavit filed with the court.

(4) The court shall conduct an ex parte review of the notice and affidavit within 24 hours of filing and determine whether the change from outpatient status to inpatient status at a hospital or facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis is supported by probable cause that the committed person was likely to injure himself or other persons unless immediately hospitalized or transferred to a facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis. If the court finds that the change in the treatment setting is supported by probable cause, the hospital may detain the committed patient for 5 days from the date of the order. If the court finds that the change in the treatment setting is not supported by probable cause, the court shall order the committed person’s immediate release from the hospital or facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis. The court shall appoint counsel to represent the committed person if it is determined that the attorney of record is no longer available to represent the person about whom a notice of rehospitalization has been filed.

(5) The hospital or facility shall release the committed person at the end of 5 days from the date of the order, unless during that time the hospital, Department, or facility has filed a petition with the court to revoke outpatient treatment. The court shall schedule a hearing on the petition to revoke outpatient treatment within 21 days of the committed person’s hospitalization or detention. The court, for good cause, may continue the hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, if the court finds that inpatient treatment at a hospital or facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis is the least restrictive treatment alternative available and required to prevent the person from injuring himself or others as a result of mental illness, the hospital or facility may continue to detain the committed person for the remainder of the term of commitment. If the court finds that inpatient treatment at a hospital or facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis is not supported, the court shall order the committed person’s immediate release and return to outpatient status.

(6) The criteria set forth in section 21-526 for determining when the maximum periods of time may be extended shall apply to this section.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 757, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(x), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-548.

1973 Ed., § 21-548.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-526, § 21-561, and § 21-582.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 rewrote the section which had read as follows: “§ 21-548. Periodic examinations by hospital authorities; release.” “The chief of service of a public or private hospital shall, as often as practicable, but not less often than every six months, examine or cause to be examined each patient admitted to a hospital pursuant to this subchapter and if he determines on the basis of the examination that the conditions which justified the involuntary hospitalization of the patient no longer exist, the chief of service shall immediately release the patient.”

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(w) 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(w) 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(x) 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(x) 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(w) of D.C. Law 14-131 amended this section to read as follows:

§ 21-548. Request for revocation of outpatient status; confinement pending decision on revocation of outpatient status; hearing on outpatient revocation petition.

“(a) A person who has been committed under section 21-545 or section 21-545.01 and is receiving outpatient treatment may be transferred to a more restrictive treatment setting, including inpatient hospitalization, pursuant to a court order, after a hearing, upon the court finding, based upon clear and convincing evidence, that:

“(1) The person who is committed has failed to comply with a material condition of his outpatient treatment and a more restrictive treatment alternative is required to prevent the person from injuring himself or others; or

“(2) There has been a significant change in the mental illness of the person who is committed and a more restrictive treatment alternative is required to prevent the person from injuring himself or others.

“(b) If the Department, hospital, facility, or mental health provider providing treatment to a person committed under section 21-545 or section 21-545.01 determines that a committed person who is receiving outpatient treatment is, as a result of mental illness, likely to injure himself or others if he is not immediately detained, the chief clinical officer of the Department or his designee, or the chief of service of a hospital, facility, or mental health provider, may take the committed person into custody and transfer the person to an inpatient hospital setting. If the committed person is hospitalized at a facility not operated by the Department, the chief of service or his designee from that hospital shall immediately notify the chief clinical officer for the Department of the admission by telephone.

“(1) Within 24 hours of a committed person’s transfer from outpatient to inpatient treatment, the Department or the hospital where the person is detained shall notify the court of:

“(A) A committed person’s hospitalization and provide the court with a detailed affidavit reciting the circumstances of the person’s transfer to inpatient status;

“(B) The recent actions of the committed person that brought about the inpatient detention; and

“(C) If known, whether the hospital or the Department has determined whether to seek a revocation of the committed person’s outpatient status for a period of more than 5 days.

“(2) Within 24 hours of the committed person transfer to a more restrictive treatment setting, the hospital shall give the committed person a copy of the notice and affidavit filed with the court as well as written notice of the person’s rights to release or to an adversarial judicial hearing. The hospital shall notify the attorney of record of the committed person’s hospitalization or transfer to a more restrictive treatment setting and provide the attorney with a copy of the notice and affidavit filed with the court.

“(3) The court shall conduct an ex parte review of the notice and affidavit within 24 hours of filing and determine whether the change from outpatient status to inpatient status is supported by probable cause that the committed person was likely to injure himself or other persons unless immediately hospitalized or transferred to a more restrictive treatment setting. If the court finds that the change in the treatment setting is supported by probable cause, the hospital may detain the committed patient for 5 days from the date of the order. If the court finds that the change in the treatment setting is not supported by probable cause, the court shall order the committed person’s immediate release from the hospital. The court shall appoint counsel to represent the committed person if it is determined that the attorney of record is no longer available to represent the person about whom a notice of rehospitalization has been filed.

“(4) The hospital shall release the committed person at the end of 5 days of inpatient treatment, unless during that time the hospital has filed a petition with the court to revoke outpatient treatment. The court shall schedule a hearing on the petition to revoke outpatient treatment within 21 days of the committed person’s hospitalization. Upon the request of the committed person, the court, for good cause, may continue the hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, if the court finds that inpatient treatment is the least restrictive treatment alternative available and required to prevent the person from injuring himself or others as a result of mental illness, the hospital may continue to detain the committed person for the remainder of the term of commitment. If the court finds that inpatient treatment is not supported, the court shall order the committed person’s immediate release and return to outpatient status.

“(5) The criteria set forth in section 21-526 for determining when the maximum periods of time may be extended shall apply to this section.”

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

References in Text

Section 21-545.01, referred to in subsec. (a), is enacted only upon enactment of certain legislation by the United States Congress.


§ 21–549. Preservation of other rights to release.

Nothing in this chapter prohibits a person from exercising a right presently available to him for obtaining release from confinement, including the right to petition for a writ of habeas corpus.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 757, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(y), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-549.

1973 Ed., § 21-549.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 substituted “Nothing in this chapter prohibits” for “ Sections 21-546 to 21-548 do not prohibit”.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(x) 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(x) 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(y) 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(y) 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(x) of D.C. Law 14-131 substituted “Nothing in this chapter prohibits” for “ Sections 21-546 to 21-548 do not prohibit”.

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


§ 21–550. Surety.

The court in its discretion may require a petitioner under this subchapter to file an undertaking with surety to be approved by the court in such amount as the court deems proper, conditioned to save harmless the respondent by reason of costs incurred, including attorney’s fees, if any, and damages suffered by the respondent, as a result of any action under this subchapter.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 757, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-550.

1973 Ed., § 21-550.


§ 21–551. Nonresidents.

(a) If a person ordered committed to the Department by the court pursuant to section 21-545 is found by the Commission, subject to a review by the court, not to be a resident of the District of Columbia, and to be a resident of another place, he shall be transferred to the State of his residence if an appropriate institution of that State is willing to accept him. If the person is an indigent, the expense of transferring him, including the traveling expenses of necessary attendants, shall be borne by the District of Columbia.

(b) For the purposes of this section, the term “resident of the District of Columbia” means a person who voluntarily lives in the District of Columbia and has no present intention of removing himself from the District of Columbia. The term “resident of the District of Columbia” does not include persons who live in the District of Columbia solely for a temporary purpose. Residency is not affected by temporary absence from and the subsequent return to the District of Columbia. Residency shall not depend upon the reason that the person entered the District of Columbia, except to the extent that it bears upon whether they are in the District of Columbia for a temporary purpose.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 757, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(z), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-551.

1973 Ed., § 21-551.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-906.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283, in subsec. (a), substituted “the Department” for “a public hospital”; and rewrote subsec. (b) which had read as follows: “(b) For the purposes of this section, ‘resident of the District of Columbia’ means a person who has maintained his principal place of abode in the District of Columbia for more than one year immediately prior to the filing of the petition referred to in subsection (a) of section 21-541.”

Cross References

Mentally ill persons found in certain federal reservations, expense of care and treatment, see § 21-906.

Persons hospitalized prior to September 15, 1964, see § 21-589.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(y) 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(z) 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(y) 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(z) 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(y) of D.C. Law 14-131, in subsec. (a), in the first sentence, substituted “the Department” for “a public hospital”; and amended subsec. (b) to read as follows:

“(b) For the purposes of this section, the term ”resident of the District of Columbia“ means a person who voluntarily lives in the District of Columbia and has no present intention of removing himself from the District of Columbia. The term ”resident of the District of Columbia“ does not include persons who live in the District of Columbia solely for a temporary purpose. Residency is not affected by temporary absence from and the subsequent return to the District of Columbia. Residency shall not depend upon the reason that the person entered the District of Columbia, except to the extent that it bears upon whether they are in the District of Columbia for a temporary purpose.”

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