Right to counsel

Key_development Question_mark

Legislation, Involuntary Medical Treatment (incomplete)



Proposed patients have the right to counsel in involuntary treatment matters regardless of income.


Due to mental health, substance dependency or developmental disability


The provisions used to pursue civil commitment may also be used to order treatment on an outpatient basis. SeeMinn. Stat. Ann. § 253b.09 ("after careful consideration of reasonable alternative dispositions including but not limited to dismissal of petition; voluntary outpatient care; voluntary admission to a treatment facility, state-operated treatment program, or community-based treatment program; appointment of a guardian or conservator; or release before commitment as provided for in subdivision 4, it finds that there is no suitable alternative to judicial commitment, the court shall commit the patient to the least restrictive treatment program or alternative programs. . . (b) In deciding on the least restrictive program, the court shall consider a range of treatment alternatives including but not limited to community-based nonresidential treatment, community residential treatment, partial hospitalization, acute care hospital, assertive community treatment teams, and state-operated treatment programs").


Also, the same statutory scheme covers all involuntary treatment 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 and admission 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 treatment program participation where parent or guardian consented on behalf of minor younger than 16


No such proceeding


The code does not mention a procedure through which a minor younger than 16 may object to their participation in a treatment program 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