Right to counsel

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Legislation, Civil Commitment - Subject of Petition

Wash. Rev. Code § 71.05.360(5)(b) and Wash. Rev. Code § 71.05.300(2) require the appointment of counsel for indigent persons in civil commitment proceedings before and at the probable cause hearing. If a minor is being committed, the parents have a right to appointed counsel if they oppose the commitment and they are indigent, as per Wash. Rev. Code § 71.34.740(5). Wash. Rev. Code § 71.34.710(3) extends the right to counsel to minors subject to commitment.


There is a right to appointed counsel in proceedings to involuntarily commit a person for alcohol or chemical dependency in certain circumstances.  Wash. Rev. Code § 70.96A.140(9).  However, the Court of Appeals has held that the section of this statute actually providing for commitment is unconstitutionally overbroad and vague.  Mays v. State, 68 P.3d 1114 (Wash. Ct. App. 2003).  Under Wash. Rev. Code § 70.96B.090(5)(a), there is a right to appointed counsel for extended commitment due to chemical dependency, and the court can appoint counsel against the wishes of the person being committed if the court deems it necessary. 

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no