If involuntarily committed, the person against whom you are filing this application, will be:
- prohibited from possessing and receiving firearms and ammunition, in some cases for his or her entire life,
- required to immediately surrender ANY firearms owned or in his or her possession,
- if committed for treatment of mental illness, reported to both federal and state database registries used for firearm purchases and permits/licenses to carry concealed weapons, and subject to criminal charges for possession or receipt of firearms or ammunition.
- Conviction in West Virginia can result in a fine up to $1,000.00 or jail time up to one year. Federal conviction is a FELONY and can result in fines and jail time up to TEN years.
Persons seeking voluntairy admission for treatment, who have NOT been involuntarily committed, are NOT subject to the above prohibitions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. UNDER WHAT CIRCUSTANCES CAN YOU FILE A MENTAL HYGIENE?
A. A mental health case may be filed either in the county where the respondent resides or where the respondent may be found (W. Va. Code § 27-5-2(c)). To initiate such a case, an applicant must file a completed application under oath with the circuit clerk or in special cases with a mental hygiene commissioner. There is no filing fee for this type of case.
Q. WHO CAN FILE?
A. Any adult may apply for an individual's involuntary hospitalization if the respondent is not incarcerated.
Q. WHERE ARE THE FORMS FOUND?
A. Mental Hygiene packets may be obtained at the Circuit Clerk's office.
Q. CAN I TALK TO THE MENTAL HYGIENE COMMISSIONER, JUDGE, OR MAGISTRATE ABOUT THIS CASE? BEFORE I FILE THE APPLICATION? ANYTIME OUTSIDE OF COURT?
A. No. The judicial officer talks with both parties to a case at the same time, and is required to decline to speak with you or others about the case, execpt for scheduling matters. The hearing, when all are present, is the proper place for you to speak with the judicial officer.
Q. WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS IN MOST CASES?
A. The application will be forwarded to a mental hygiene commissioner who will review it. The judicial officer will either deny it or etner an order to have the person to be examined taken into custody by the sheriff and examined by a physician or other mental health professional. If the examination does NOT reveal addiction or mental illness and likelihood to cause serious harm to self or others resulting from mental illness or addiction, the individual will be released and the case dismissed. Otherwise, a probable cause hearing will be held before the judicial officer at FMRS in Union. In many cases the hearing will be held immediately after the examination. Make sure you are avaiable and have provided information on the application where you can be immediately reached and notified as to where and when the hearing will take place.
Q. WHAT WILL HAPPEN AT THE PROBABLE CAUSE HEARING?
A. What occurs at the hearing may vary, but generally the proceeding will be less formal than most courtrooms. The judicial officer will call upon you to testify. You should be prepared to present and explain what occured which led you to file the application and the facts you put in the application especially those which indicate the individual (now called the Respondent) is more likely than not mentally ill or addicated and likely to cause serious harm to self or others. You will also need to bring with you any other evidence or witnesses you want to present. The Respondent will also be present and have an appointed attorney. You and any witness you may call to testify may be asked questions by the Respondent's attorney and the Judicial officer. You may also ask questions of the Respondent. You may question the physician or mental health professional who testifies about the examination made of the Respondent. The judicial officer will make a decision at the end of the hearing.
Q. DOES THE INDIVIDUAL BEING EXAMINED (RESPONDENT) HAVE TO TESTIFY AT THE HEARING?
A. No, he or shee has the right to remain silent.
Q. WHY DOES THE RESPONDENT GET AND APPOINTED ATTORNEY AT THE HEARING?
A. It is the liberty interests of the Respondent at stake. The Respondent may be forced into treatment in a locked facility against his or her will.
Q. DO I GET A LAWYER?
A. The prosecuting attorney or his or her assistant MAY appear at the probable cause hearing. IF the prosecutor deems it in the public interest to be at the hearing. You are not required to have a lawyer at the first hearing. You may contact your local prosecutor if you believe it is in the public interest for an attorney from that office to appear at the probable cause hearing, and wish to discuss this with the prosecutor.
Q. CAN I REQUEST A DELAY OF THE PROBABLE CAUSE HEARING?
A. No, only the Respondent has a right to request the hearing be postponed up to 48 hours.
Q. WHAT HAPPENS IF THE JUDGE MAKES A FINDING OF PROBABLE CAUSE AT THE HEARING?
A. The Respondent will either be placed in a mental health or addiction treatment facilty for inpatient treatment for up to a maximum of 30 days before another hearing is held, or may be released immediately or later for outpatient treatment by an agreement for treatment called a Voluntary Treatment Agreement.
Q. CAN I OR THE RESPONDENT PICK THE TREATMENT FACILITY?
A. No, unless the Respondent enters into a Voluntary Treatment Agreement approved by the Court. Admission for involuntary inpatient treatment can be in facilities throughout the state, depending upon bed space available and the type of treatment needed, including the state psychiatric hospitals in Weston or Huntington. The Respondent will not necessarily be treated in the local community or near home, and will generally be placed at the first available appropriate facility.
Q. HOW LONG WILL THE RESPONDENT BE HOSPITALIZED?
A. The maximum inpatient stay is 15 days unless a request is made by the mental health facility for a final commitment hearing.
Q. IS THE HOSPITALIZATION AND TREATMENT FREE OF COST?
A. NO! Under West Virginia law the patient may be billed for the costs of treatment. Any insurance of the patient may be billed. The estate of the patient may be billed if deceased or if the patient has a committee or guardian/conservator. If that is insufficient, then the patient's wife or husband may be billed. If the patient is a child, the father and mother may be billed. Inpatient treatment is very expensive, so billings for involuntary treatment can be quite costly.