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Arizona Appellate Court Case – IN RE PIMA COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH NO. MH 3079-4-11


Facts of the case:

The defendant’s mother feared for the safety of her son and for others. She applied for an emergency medical evaluation of her son, and based on the findings the trial court issued a psychiatric evaluation for him. After the evaluation the psychiatrist suggested court-ordered treatment. During the hearing to set the treatment at the trial court, the son told the court he did not need legal representation. The court determined he “was not capable of representing himself,” despite the defendant’s wishes. The trial court reconvened the hearing two weeks later. The date of the hearing which was determined later was never relayed to either the defendant, nor his counsel. The trial court determined because of his absence he waived his right to a voluntary hearing. The trial court then ordered the defendant to undergo inpatient treatment. The defendant appealed the ruling of the trial court.

Issue: Whether an individual with suspected mental health problems waived his right to be present at an involuntary treatment hearing

Rules: The rule used by the court was if due process given to the defendant.

  • The court said that involuntary treatment is such “a serious deprivation of liberty” that due process must be served by, but is not limited to “a full and fair adversarial proceeding.”
  • The Arizona Legislature defines a patient’s due process rights to include: a “patient and the patient’s attorney shall be present at all hearings.”
  • “The right to be present, however, may be waived if done so voluntarily and intelligently.”

Reasoning: The defendant, nor his attorney were notified when the hearing would take place. Even though it is the defendant’s duty to keep in touch with his attorney, the appellate court cannot fault them for something they were not told.

Holding (ruling): Since the defendant did not know about the hearing he cannot be held responsible for his attendance at it. Furthermore, even if he did know about it, the trial court was wrong to conclude the defendant’s absence was voluntary without any supporting evidence.

Disposition: The appellate court cancelled the trial court’s order for the defendant to undergo inpatient treatment and sent the case back to the trial court to be re-decided while using the standards in decision.

Court of Appeals, State of Arizona, Division Two

Decided: November, 30, 2011

Read the entire case here.

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