August 25, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Involuntary Short-term Mental Health Commitment Is Not Equivalent to Court Order

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Interest of Ray v. People on Thursday, February 21, 2019.

Mental Health—Certification for Short-Term Treatment—Physician—National Instant Criminal Background Check System—Firearm Prohibitions—Court Order.

Ray voluntarily sought mental health treatment from a hospital. After he was admitted, a physician certified Ray for involuntary short-term mental health treatment under C.R.S. § 27-65-107, finding that he was a danger to himself or others and would discontinue mental health treatment absent such a certification. That certification caused Colorado officials to report Ray to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) as a person subject to federal firearm prohibitions. The certifying physician terminated the mental health certification days after it was entered, and Ray was discharged from the hospital. Ray petitioned the probate court for removal from the NICS. The probate court denied the petition.

On appeal, Ray argued that because he was involuntarily certified by a physician, rather than a court, Colorado officials should not have reported his certification to the NICS. Colorado law requires certain persons and entities to make NICS reports for persons with respect to whom a court has entered an order for involuntary certification for short-term mental health treatment. The plain meaning of the term “court order” does not encompass certification by a professional person. Therefore, the certification made by the physician does not meet the plain definition of a court order.

The order was reversed and the case was remanded for the probate court and the parties to take reasonable steps to cause any record of Ray’s certification submitted by them under CRS § 13-9-123(1)(c) to be rescinded.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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