Right to counsel

Key_development Question_mark

Legislation, Civil Commitment


A person who is subject to a civil commitment matter has the right to counsel at any proceeding.


Due to mental health, substance dependency or developmental disability


The same statutory scheme covers all civil commitment matters whether sought due to mental health, chemical dependency, or developmental disability. See e.g., Minn. Stat. Ann. § 253B.09 ("(a) If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the proposed patient is a person who poses a risk of harm due to mental illness, or is a person who has a developmental disability or chemical dependency...").


Counsel will be court appointed if the patient or others fail to secure counsel at the time a commitment petition is filed. See Minn. Stat. § 253B.07, subd. 2c.  



As to administration of neuroleptic medications

Unless there is an emergency, neuroleptic medications (also known as antipsychotic medications) cannot be administered to a committed patient without their consent or the consent of the substitute decision-maker without a court order. Minn. Stat. § 253B.092, subd. 8.  Prior to a hearing regarding whether neuroleptic medication should be administered involuntarily, the patient must be examined by a court examiner. Id. at (b).  Paragraph (b) goes on to state that "The patient is entitled to counsel and a second court examiner, if requested by the patient or patient's counsel." Id. 

As to minors

It seems that the above statutes may apply to minors as well, as nothing in the definitions section appears to limit the proceedings to those 18 years of age or older. See Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 2 (defining "Chemically dependent person") and subd. 17-18 (defining "Person who has a mental illness and is dangerous to the public", "Person who poses a risk of harm due to a mental illness", and "Person with a developmental disability").  Furthermore, the section of the code covering voluntary treatment specifies that anyone who is 16 years of age or older may consent on their own behalf to their admission or treatment. Minn. Stat. § 253B.04(a).  As to those younger than 16, their parent or guardian may consent on their behalf. Id.

Objection to admission where parent or guardian consented on behalf of individual younger than 16 years of age


No such proceeding


The code does not mention a procedure through which a minor younger than 16 may object to an admission where consent was provided on their behalf by a parent or guardian (which may ordinarily trigger a right to counsel).

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no