Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel called for stricter mental health laws, including revisions to Florida’s Baker Act, during CNN’s forum on gun control Wednesday night.
Under current Florida law, the Baker Act allows for the state to give involuntary psychiatric examinations to those suspected of suffering from mental illness. Such examinations often take place while an individual is in temporary detention by the state.
For an individual to be detained under the Baker Act, one does not have to be a charged or suspected with committing a crime, but merely have a court find that:
A person is mentally ill and, because of the mental illness, he/she has refused voluntary placement for treatment or is unable to determine whether placement is necessary; (2) he/she is incapable of living alone or with help, and without treatment is likely to suffer from neglect or refuse to care for him/herself, or there is a substantial likelihood in the near future that he/she will inflict serious bodily harm on him/herself/others as evidenced by recent behavior; and (3) all less restrictive treatment alternatives are not appropriate.
Under proposed revisions to the Baker Act, the government would have greater powers over those institutionalized, including the ability to confiscate weapons from those deemed mentally ill.
Laws like the Baker Act have long been considered controversial. Civil liberty advocates have long expressed concern about the government’s ability to hold an individual against their will without any crime committed.
A 17-year-old Palm Bay High School student in Florida was detained under the Baker Act for making “inappropriate” jokes that were perceived as threats on Wednesday.
“There was no credible threat to the school. We take it seriously and have to follow through on it,” said Lt. Cheryl Trainer, Melbourne Police Department spokeswoman.
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