According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “about one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.” Mental illness can be a heartbreaking burden for the sufferers and their loved ones; and occasionally, the effects of mental illness cross paths with the legal system.
Two types of mental illness cases exist in the U.S. court systems. These include Mental Health Courts and involuntary commitments. Mental Health Courts are often correlated with the Criminal Court system because the individual has been arrested and charged with a crime. If it is determined that the crime suspect suffers from a mental illness, and this was likely a factor in the crime, then the case may be eligible for a Mental Health Court. Each state has their specific requirements for a case to qualify for a Mental Health Court, but generally, these courts are voluntary, and the decision to have a case heard in a Mental Health Court is the decision of the person charged with the crime (and their attorney if applicable). The charged person’s incapacity must however be determined by a health care professional. The outcome of such cases will then involve some sort of treatment plan depending on the mental health issue. Treatments include mental health treatment, medication compliance, inpatient or outpatient chemical dependency treatment, Alcoholics Anonymous or other self-help groups, domestic violence treatment, sex offender treatment or other recommended specialized treatments. If the laws in your state permit criminal records to be open to the public, then this will include Mental Health Court records. In most cases, the actual evaluations performed by a medical professional that determine the health status will be sealed by the judge.
Cases for involuntary commitments involve commitment for treatment of a mental illness after a judge determines that an individual suffers from a mental illness and is either dangerous, or cannot provide for their own basic needs. These cases are typically found in a general jurisdiction county court such as a Superior Court or Circuit Court. However, due to the sensitive nature of these hearings, the records for these cases are not easily accessible by the public. Treatment records are always confidential. Yet, while the person’s commitment may not be confidential, the court will likely require the requester to provide an explanation as to why they are requesting the information. Check with the Clerk of Court in the relevant county to determine your eligibility to obtain access to this sensitive information.�