Right to counsel

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Legislation, Civil Commitment

When a person appears to be "an imminent danger to others or to the person's self" due to an apparent "mental health disorder" or appears to be "gravely disabled," an intervening professional or certified peace officer may take the person into custody and seek a 72-hour hold to treat and evaluate the individual. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 27-65-106(1)(a).  Assuming the petition for evaluation is approved by the court and the subsequent evaluation shows that continued treatment is warranted, the facility where the respondent is being held may file a petition for involuntary treatment of the individual for up to three months ("petition to certify"). Colo. Rev. Stat. § 27-65-109(1).  The court must immediately appoint an attorney to represent the respondent upon receiving a petition for certification. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 27-65-109(5).  The right to counsel continues for all proceedings, including hearings to extend the commitment beyond three months, any subsequent reviews of the certification, and requests for outpatient treatment. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 27-65-109(5)-(6), (10).

If after the initial evaluation, the evaluating professional believes that continued commitment is warranted but the 72-hour emergency mental health hold is expected to expire before an appropriate placement can be located, the facility may place the person under a second emergency mental health hold, immediately notifying the court, at which point the court shall appoint an attorney. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 27-65-106(7)(a).

A person may also be certified for involuntary treatment for a period of up to three months without a 72-hour hold through a petition filed by their "spouse, legal guardian, relative, professional person, or any other responsible person." Colo. Rev. Stat. § 27-65-108(1)-(2). Upon the filing of such a petition, the court shall immediately appoint an attorney for the respondent to represent them in all proceedings, including any appeals. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 27-65-108(4)(a).

Individuals subject to emergency or involuntary commitment due to drug or alcohol use have the right to counsel as well. A written application for emergency commitment may be made to the administrator of an approved treatment facility. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 27-81-111(2).  If approved, the person may be committed for no more than five days, but may be held for longer than five days if involuntary commitment proceedings are sought pursuant to § 27-81-112. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 27-81-111(5).  Within 24 hours of detainment, the administrator must advise the person of their right to challenge the detention and of their right to court-appointed counsel at every stage of the proceedings if they want counsel but are unable to obtain counsel. Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 27-81-111 and 27-81-112.

Finally, minors fifteen years of age or older have the right to an attorney where they object to their continued hospitalization.  If "a minor does not consent to or objects to continued hospitalization, the need for such continued hospitalization must, within ten days, be reviewed ... by an independent professional person." Colo. Rev. Stat. § 27-65-104(6)(a).  If the evaluation supports continued hosiptalization but the minor continues to object, the minor must be informed of their "right to retain and consult with an attorney at any time[,]" and if the minor requests representation, "the director or the director's duly appointed representative shall file, within three days after the [minor's request], a statement requesting an attorney for the minor or, if the minor is under fifteen years of age, a guardian ad litem." Colo. Rev. Stat. § 27-65-104(6)(b).

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no