The following general information is intended to help answer the most commonly asked questions about the civil commitment process.

Who can be committed?

People who are chemically dependant or mentally ill AND who are considered to be dangerous to themselves, others or property. A court may consider a person to be dangerous if they threaten harm or act out in a violent manner. A person may also be dangerous to themself by neglecting their own personal care to the point that it threatens their own health.

How is a civil commitment accomplished?

In Cass County there are two ways people can be committed. The first is by Emergency Order. This process is available to law enforcement personnel and health care professionals only.

The second way is by Petition. This is accomplished by a person who knows the individual in dire need of help and who completes the necessary forms located at the State's Attorney's Office. The person who completes this information and asks that a person be committed is the "Petitioner". The person who might be committed is the "Respondent".

What information is needed?

Information included on the petition for commitment should be as recent as possible. It should provide the specific details that convince you that this person can no longer care for themself or that convinces you they are dangerous to others. It should also explain:

  • Any history of mental or chemical treatment.
  • Specifics on the whereabouts of the Respondent
  • Names of witnesses who can also attest to the Respondent's behavior.
  • Any information you may possess about insurance.

What happens after I turn in a petition?

Once a petition has been completed two things must be determined. First a health care professional must certify to the State's Attorney's Office that there is a need for commitment. A copy of the petition is immediately forwarded to Southeast Human Services, or other appropriate agency, for an evaluation. When completed, that agency sends their recommendation back to the State's Attorney's Office. At that point the State's Attorney's Office makes the second necessary determination. After reviewing the recommendation by the human services agency the State's Attorney's Office must determine whether there is a legal basis to request a judge to order the person committed against their own will.

When would a commitment take place?

A petition is valid for thirty days. The time it takes for the process to be completed can vary widely depending upon the individual circumstances of each case. It is common to have the aforementioned steps completed and the person taken into a treatment facility within five days to two weeks.

Where would the respondent be sent?

Most often, respondents are sent to the State Hospital in Jamestown, North Dakota. Within seven days following such a commitment, a court hearing would be set in Cass County in which a judge determines whether there is probable cause to believe that the person meets the standards for commitment. It you are notified of the time and date of any court proceeding regarding this commitment, you are expected to appear and testify to the truth of your statements made in the petition.

Does the person have to be sent to Jamestown?

Not necessarily. In some cases, if a person has insurance coverage and/or an extensive prior treatment history with another facility in North Dakota, they can be committed there.

Can they be sent to Fergus Falls or some other Minnesota facility?

NO! North Dakota courts do not have juristiction to commit someome into a Minnesota facility, even if they are a Minnesota resident or have been treated there in the past. North Dakota Courts can only commit to North Dakota facilities. If it is your desire to have a person committed to a Minnesota facility, you must do so through a Minnesota commitment process, or convince the person to go there voluntarily.