What Is Involuntary Evaluation and Treatment?

Every state has a civil commitment process that provides legal authority to order an individual alleged to be in a psychiatric emergency to involuntary psychological evaluation and treatment.

Bernardo Garcia’s goal is to assist his clients in receiving any necessary care voluntarily while protecting their rights.

What Are the Involuntary Evaluation and Treatment Laws in Arizona?

In Arizona, the court may order a person eighteen or older to undergo an involuntary mental health evaluation, which may include emergency hospitalization. This may lead to the evaluated individual being petitioned for court-ordered treatment.

The court may order the petitioned individual to inpatient, outpatient, or a combination of inpatient and outpatient treatment if they find the individual, as a result of a mental disorder, is:

  • a danger to self, or
  • a danger to others, or
    persistently or acutely disabled, or
  • gravely disabled and in need of treatment,
    and is either unwilling or
  • unable to accept voluntary treatment.
What Are the Patient’s Rights?

Throughout the court-ordered evaluation and treatment process, the petitioned person has rights that an advocate can help them and their loved ones navigate and protect.

The petitioned person has the right to:

  • A translator if English is not your primary language
  • Get a treatment plan
  • Be assigned a case manager as your mental health advocate
  • Have an attorney represent you in court
  • Be involved in making your Inpatient Treatment and Discharge Plan
  • Have someone represent you in making the Inpatient Treatment and Discharge Plan

The Arizona Involuntary Treatment Process

Application For Involuntary Evaluation

Anyone over the age of 18 who has witnessed a recent (within the last two months) behavior may apply for an involuntary evaluation of a person alleged to have a mental disorder and, as a result of the mental disorder, is in danger of hurting themselves or others, and refuses or is unable to receive a voluntary evaluation.

The Application for Involuntary Evaluation is submitted to a Behavioral Health Agency to conduct an evaluation.

An application for emergency admission may also be filed if the person is in immediate danger to self or others.

Screening For Evaluation

Once the Behavioral Health Agency has received the application for Involuntary Treatment, the Agency will conduct a pre-petition screening within 48 business hours. The Agency will assign a caseworker to meet with the proposed patient to determine if further evaluation is needed.

If an Emergency Involuntary Application is filed, the pre-petition screening occurs at the emergency room or a crisis center. If the petitioned individual is in the community, local law enforcement will try to find the individual and bring them to a crisis center, emergency room, or hospital for a psychiatrist to complete the screening.

After the Behavioral Health Agency conducts the screening, they will determine whether a person meets the criteria for involuntary treatment. If the individual meets the criteria, the Agency will apply for a Court-Ordered Evaluation of the individual with the court. If approved, an order is sent to local law enforcement to bring the person to the hospital for court-ordered evaluation.

The individual is provided the option to agree to voluntary treatment throughout the screening process. If this occurs, the Agency will connect the individual with treatment, ending the petition process.

Court Ordered Evaluation

Once an application for Court Ordered Evaluation (COE) is filed, a judge will review it for reasonable cause to believe that the person is:

  • a danger to self,
  • a danger to others,
  • persistently or acutely disabled, or
  • gravely disabled, AND
  • unable or unwilling to receive a voluntary mental health evaluation.

If the judge finds reasonable cause, he will issue an order for evaluation. The individual is then taken into the custody of a medical facility for the evaluation.

The judge will appoint an attorney to represent the petitioned individual. However, the patient has the right to private counsel. Many families and patients prefer to retain private counsel who has more time to devote to their loved one’s matter.

Within 72 hours of the court order, at least two physicians must meet and evaluate the person and may file a petition for court-ordered treatment.

During the evaluation period, you can have your attorney request a hearing to request your release. If a petition for court-ordered treatment is not filed within 72 hours, the patient must be released.

Court Ordered Treatment Hearing

The court will schedule a hearing within six working days of the application for court-ordered evaluation if a petition for court-ordered treatment is filed.

The petitioner must present evidence presented by two or more witnesses of the recent behavior. The evaluating physicians will also provide evidence. The petitioned person and their attorney have the right to be present and introduce evidence.

Bernardo Garcia devotes the time and care to interview all petitioning witnesses, including the doctors, to prepare for the Court Ordered Treatment Hearing. Mr. Garcia will evaluate if obtaining an Independent Medical Exam (IME) is appropriate and discuss the option with his clients. An IME can be used in the client’s hearing to advocate for voluntary treatment or rebut the petitioner’s case that the person needs care. Bernardo Garcia’s goal is to assist his clients in receiving any necessary care voluntarily while protecting their rights.

Court Order

The court will order treatment if there is clear and convincing evidence that the person needs treatment and is unwilling or unable to accept treatment voluntarily. The court may order the petitioned individual to inpatient, outpatient, or a combination of inpatient and outpatient treatment.

The court will designate which treatment agency will provide care for the court-ordered patient. The treatment provider will be ordered to file Status Reports with the court at specified intervals.

Patient Release or Discharge from Treatment

Patients remain in a treatment program until they are found to no longer be in need or discharged under the law for the maximum treatment period.

Maximum Treatment Period: The maximum number of days court-ordered treatment can last is 365 days. The maximum length of time for a person to be in inpatient treatment is 90 days for a person found to be a danger to self; 180 days for a person found to be a danger to others or persistent or acutely disabled; 365 days for a gravely disabled person.


If you or a loved one need immediate help for a psychiatric emergency:

  • Call a 24-hour Arizona Crisis Helpline – access a directory here. Arizona crisis services include 24/7 crisis response teams.
  • Go to an Emergency Room – find a hospital here.
  • Call 911 and ask for a trained crisis response officer.