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Washington State Supreme Court reverses detention ruling, sidesteps gun issue

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(The Center Square) – The Washington State Supreme Court found that one of its lower trial courts violated a citizen’s rights when it held him past the 72-hour involuntary hold period.

The court, however, declined to take up the petitioner’s complaint that he was not given his “statutorily mandated firearm rights advisement,” as required under the law.

The petitioner, referred to in court documents by the initials DH, was referred by his mother for a psychiatric evaluation “because of concerns regarding [his] labile mood, delusions, paranoia, vague threats toward his family, and lack of sleep.”

Under the Revised Code of Washington 71.05, this 72-hour involuntary hold must either result in the filing of a 14-day involuntary commitment within those 72 hours or release of the patient.

A designated crisis responder evaluated DH and chose not to file the 14-day hold because “DH agreed to go [to treatment] voluntarily.”

Despite this, DH was transferred to Wellfound Behavioral Health Hospital in Tacoma with “the paper work [indicatinging] that the intake and transfer was as an involuntary patient.”

Less than 24 hours later, DH changed his mind and wished to leave.

Rather than letting the 72-hour hold expire and releasing the petitioner per RCW 71.05, Wellfound chose to take a different approach.

They let the hold expire, opened a new 72-hour hold under a different case number, and used that case to file for a 14-day involuntary commitment.

“That DH agreed to treatment and only hours later changed his mind and indicated his desire to leave does not make the time requirements of the ITA evaporate or make them any less mandatory,” said the majority ruling filed for the record Thursday.

“We cannot allow the State to hold people without authority of law and avoid repercussions simply by starting a new case,” the ruling went on to say before noting that the trial court “abused its discretion” and “should have granted DH’s motion to dismiss.”

Due to their ruling that the trial court decision should be overturned, the majority added that they “decline to reach the issue of whether the failure to give him the statutorily mandated firearm rights advisement is reviewable” as DH should have been released prior to legally needing said advisement.

This allowed the court to sidestep the issue of the firearms warning.

The majority was signed by Justice G. Helen Whitener with justices Gonzalez, Gordon McCloud, Yu, and Montoya-Lewis in concurrence.

The dissenting justices held that “detaining DH past the original 72 hours was not a total disregard of the ITA,” citing consideration “for the intent and purpose of the act.”

Citing the petitioner’s “history of unspecified schizophrenia and psychotic disorders,” the dissenting opinion seemed to think the trial court acted within the spirit of the law.

They note that previously DH had “reported his family and friends were replaced by strangers out to get [him], his body parts were replaced by other people’s body parts, [he] was in a coma, and the world was virtual.”

The minority opinion held that the “fundamental purposes” of the involuntary treatment act should be considered “when determining whether the act’s requirements have been totally disregarded.”

Under their view, the intent and purpose of the law was to protect individuals from harming the public or themselves, and his second 72-hour hold and subsequent involuntary detention did just that.

The one thing both opinions agreed upon was declining to argue the firearm rights issue.

The dissenting opinion was signed by Justice Barbara A. Madsen, with Justices Johnson, Owens, and Stephens concurring.

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