TITLE 23
Health and Safety

CHAPTER 23-1.10
Alcoholism

SECTION 23-1.10-12


§ 23-1.10-12 Involuntary commitment of alcoholics.

(a) A person may be committed to the custody of the department by the district court upon the petition of his or her spouse or guardian, a relative, the certifying physician, or the administrator in charge of any approved public treatment facility. The petition shall allege that the person is an alcoholic who habitually lacks self-control as to the use of alcoholic beverages and that he or she: (1) has threatened, attempted, or inflicted physical harm on himself or herself or another and that unless committed is likely to inflict physical harm on himself or herself or another; or (2) will continue to suffer abnormal mental, emotional, or physical distress, will continue to deteriorate in ability to function independently if not treated, and is unable to make a rational and informed choice as to whether or not to submit to treatment, and as a result, poses a danger to himself or herself. Evidence that the person has had numerous short-term, involuntary admissions to a treatment facility shall be considered by the court in making a decision pursuant to this chapter. The petition shall be accompanied by a certificate of a licensed physician who has examined the person within three (3) days before submission of the petition, unless the person whose commitment is sought has refused to submit to a medical examination, in which case the fact of refusal shall be alleged in the petition. The certificate shall set forth the physician's findings in support of the allegations of the petition.

(b) Upon filing the petition, the court shall fix a date for a hearing no later than ten (10) days after the date the petition was filed. A copy of the petition and of the notice of the hearing, including the date fixed by the court, shall be served on the petitioner, the person whose commitment is sought, his or her next-of-kin other than the petitioner, a parent or his or her legal guardian if he or she is a minor, the administrator in charge of the approved public treatment facility to which he or she has been committed for emergency care, and any other person the court believes advisable. A copy of the petition and certificate shall be delivered to each person notified.

(c) At the hearing the court shall hear all relevant testimony, including, if possible, the testimony of at least one licensed physician who has examined the person whose commitment is sought. The person shall be present unless the court believes that his or her presence is likely to be injurious to him or her; in this event the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem to represent him or her throughout the proceeding. The court shall examine the person in open court, or if advisable shall examine the person out of court. If the person has refused to be examined by a licensed physician, he or she shall be given an opportunity to be examined by a court-appointed licensed physician. If he or she refuses and there is sufficient evidence to believe that the allegations of the petition are true, or if the court believes that more medical evidence is necessary, the court may make a temporary order committing him or her to the division for a period of not more than five (5) days for purposes of a diagnostic examination.

(d) If after hearing all relevant evidence, including the results of any diagnostic examination by the department, the court finds that grounds for involuntary commitment have been established by clear and convincing proof, it shall make an order of commitment to the department. It may not order commitment of a person unless it determines that the department is able to provide adequate and appropriate treatment for him or her and the treatment is likely to be beneficial.

(e) A person committed under this section shall remain in the custody of the department for treatment for a period of thirty (30) days unless sooner discharged. At the end of the thirty (30) day period, he or she shall be discharged automatically unless the department before the expiration of the period obtains a court order for his or her recommitment upon the grounds set forth in subsection (a) for a further period of ninety (90) days unless sooner discharged. If a person has been committed because he or she is an alcoholic likely to inflict physical harm on himself or herself or another, the department shall apply for recommitment if after examination it is determined that the likelihood still exists.

(f) A person recommitted under subsection (a) who has not been discharged by the department before the end of the ninety (90) day period shall be discharged at the expiration of that period unless the department, before the expiration of the period, obtains a court order on the grounds set forth in subsection (a) for recommitment for a further period not to exceed ninety (90) days. If a person has been committed because he or she is an alcoholic likely to inflict physical harm on himself or herself or another, the department shall apply for recommitment if after examination it is determined that the likelihood still exists. Only two (2) recommitment orders under subsection (e) and (f) shall be permitted.

(g) Upon the filing of a petition for recommitment under subsection (e) or (f), the court shall fix a date for a hearing no later than ten (10) days after the date the petition was filed. A copy of the petition and of the notice of the hearing, including the date fixed by the court, shall be served on the petitioner, the person whose commitment is sought, his or her next-of-kin other than the petitioner, the original petitioner under subsection (a) if different from the petitioner for recommitment, one of his or her parents or his or her legal guardian if he or she is a minor, and any other person the court believes advisable. At the hearing the court shall proceed as provided in subsection (c).

(h) The department shall provide for adequate and appropriate treatment of a person committed to its custody. The department may transfer any person committed to its custody from one approved public treatment facility to another if transfer is medically advisable.

(i) A person committed to the custody of the department for treatment shall be discharged at any time before the end of the period for which he or she has been committed if either of the following conditions is met:

(1) In case of an alcoholic committed on the grounds of likelihood of infliction of physical harm upon himself or herself or another, that he or she is no longer an alcoholic or the likelihood no longer exists; or

(2) In case of an alcoholic committed on the grounds of the need of treatment, deterioration, inability to function, or the fact that he or she is a danger to himself or herself, that the deterioration no longer exists, that he or she is no longer a danger to himself or herself, that he or she is able to function, that further treatment will not be likely to bring about significant improvement in the person's condition, or treatment is no longer adequate or appropriate.

(j) The court shall inform the person whose commitment or recommitment is sought of his or her right to contest the application, be represented by counsel at every stage of any proceedings relating to his or her commitment and recommitment, and have counsel appointed by the court or provided by the court if he or she wants the assistance of counsel and is unable to obtain counsel. If the court believes that the person needs the assistance of counsel, the court shall require, by appointment if necessary, counsel for him or her regardless of his or her wishes. The person whose commitment or recommitment is sought shall be informed of his or her right to be examined by a licensed physician of his or her choice. If the person is unable to obtain a licensed physician and requests examination by a physician, the court shall employ a licensed physician.

(k) If a private treatment facility agrees with the request of a competent patient or his or her parent, sibling, adult child, or guardian to accept the patient for treatment, the administrator of the public treatment facility shall transfer him or her to the private treatment facility.

(l) A person committed under this chapter may at any time seek to be discharged from commitment by writ of habeas corpus.

(m)(1) Any aggrieved party may appeal to the superior court from a judgment of the district court by claiming the appeal in writing filed with the clerk within forty-eight (48) hours, exclusive of Sundays and legal holidays, after the judgment is entered.

(2) All court actions shall be heard within fourteen (14) days after the appeal and shall have precedence on the calendar and shall continue to have precedence on the calendar on a day-to-day basis until the matter is heard.

History of Section.
(P.L. 1972, ch. 130, § 1; P.L. 1984, ch. 122, § 1; P.L. 1987, ch. 232, § 1; G.L. 1956, § 40.1-4-12; P.L. 1995, ch. 370, art. 14, § 4.)