law enables a person to commence a court proceeding for the involuntary
commitment or treatment of another person who suffers a serious mental
impairment or who has a substance-related
disorder. The court procedures for each situation
are similar, but not identical.
mental impairment means the condition of a person with mental illness and
because of that illness the person lacks sufficient judgment to make
responsible decisions with respect to the person's hospitalization or
treatment, and who because of that illness meets any of the following criteria:
- Is likely to
injure the person's self or others if allowed to remain at liberty without
- Is likely to
inflict serious emotional injury on members of the person's family or
others who lack reasonable opportunity to avoid contact with the person
with mental illness if the person with mental illness is allowed to remain
at liberty without treatment.
- Is unable to
satisfy the person's needs for nourishment, clothing, essential medical
care, or shelter so that it is likely that the person will suffer physical
injury, physical debilitation, or death.
A person with a substance-related disorder
means a person who meets all of the following criteria:
- Habitually lacks
self control as to the use of chemical substances to the extent that the
person is likely to seriously endanger the person's health, or is likely
to physically injure the person's self or others if allowed to remain at
liberty without treatment.
- Lacks sufficient
judgment to make responsible decisions with respect to the person's
hospitalization or treatment.
How to Proceed
commence an action for involuntary hospitalization, you must file a verified
application with the clerk of court in the county where the person who is the
subject of concern resides or is presently located. Also, you must provide one or more supporting
affidavits (verified written statements) that corroborate the application as well
as a written statement of a licensed physician in support of the
Please use the
Service of Notice
the filing of an application, the clerk of court will docket the case and
notify a judge who shall review the application and accompanying
documents. The clerk will send copies of
the application and supporting documentation to the sheriff to serve upon the
clerk shall also send copies of the documents to the county attorney. If the application alleges serious mental
impairment, the clerk will also provide copies of documents to the mental
health advocate in the county of the respondent's legal settlement.
applicant may request that the respondent be taken into immediate custody. If the judge finds probable cause to believe
that the respondent has a serious mental impairment or has a substance-related
disorder and is likely to injure the
respondent or other persons if allowed to remain at liberty, the judge may
order the respondent to be detained until the hearing.
the filing of the application, the court shall determine if the respondent has
an attorney. The court may appoint an
attorney to represent the respondent if the respondent is financially unable to
pay for an attorney.
a matter involving an allegation of substance-related disorder, the law allows
the court to appoint an attorney for the applicant if legal representation is
necessary to assist the applicant in a meaningful presentation of evidence and
the applicant is financially unable to pay for an attorney.
the application is adequate, the judge will set the matter for hearing. The hearing shall not be less than
forty-eight hours after notice to the respondent unless the respondent waives
the time requirement. Prior to the
hearing, the court may require an examination of the respondent by a physician.
the hearing for a matter concerning serious mental impairment, the county
attorney shall present evidence in support of the contentions in the
application. At a hearing concerning an
allegation of substance-related disorder, the evidence may be presented by the
county attorney, the applicant, or the applicant's attorney.
applicant and the respondent shall be given an opportunity to testify and to
present and cross-examine witnesses. All
persons not necessary for the conduct of the proceedings shall be excluded. The matter shall be tried as a civil
matter. There shall be a presumption in
favor of the respondent and the burden of evidence in support of the contentions
in the application shall be on the applicant.
upon completion of the hearing the court finds that the contention has not been
sustained by clear and convincing evidence, the court shall deny the
application and terminate the proceedings.
Note: Information on this website is not intended to serve as legal advice and
should not be construed as such. Also,
judges and court employees are prohibited from giving legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should consult
with an attorney. The following site
contains suggestions about how to find an attorney: http://www.iowacourts.gov/Representing_Yourself/Legal_Help/Find_a_Lawyer/index.asp.
addition, the information provided in this site is general in nature. Descriptions of laws and court rules are
abridged. When in doubt as to the
precise requirements or content of a law or court rule, you should check the
official source or consult with your attorney.