Code of the District of Columbia

Subchapter VI. Miscellaneous Provisions.


§ 21–581. Proceedings instituted by Mayor of the District of Columbia.

Proceedings instituted by the Mayor of the District of Columbia to determine the mental condition of an alleged indigent mentally ill person or a person alleged to be mentally ill, with homicidal or otherwise dangerous tendencies, shall be according to the provisions of subchapter IV of this chapter.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 759, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 567, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 150(c)(5)(A); Mar. 24, 1998, D.C. Law 12-81, § 14(k), 45 DCR 745.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-581.

1973 Ed., § 21-581.


§ 21–582. Petitions, applications, or certificates of physicians or qualified psychologists.

(a) A petition, application, or certificate authorized under section 21-521, section 21-541(a), section 21-545.01, or section 21-548 may not be considered if made by a psychiatrist, physician, or qualified psychologist who:

(1) Is related by blood, marriage, or domestic partnership to the person about whom the petition, application, or certificate is made;

(2) Is financially interested in the hospital in which the person is to be detained; or

(3) Except in the case of psychiatrists, physicians, or qualified psychologists employed by the United States or the District of Columbia, are professionally or officially connected with the hospital or are employed on a contract basis by the Department.

(b) A petition, application, or certificate of a physician or qualified psychologist may not be considered unless it is based on personal observation and examination of the person made by the physician or qualified psychologist not more than 72 hours prior to the making of the petition, application, or certificate. The certificate shall set forth in detail the facts and reasons on which the physician or qualified psychologist based his opinions and conclusions.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 759, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Feb. 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48, § 11(a)(18), 30 DCR 5778; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(ee), 50 DCR 917; Sept. 12, 2008, D.C. Law 17-231, § 22(f), 55 DCR 6758.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-582.

1973 Ed., § 21-582.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 rewrote subsec. (a); and in subsec. (b), deleted “alleged mentally ill” from the first sentence. Prior to amendment, subsec. (a) had read as follows: “(a) A petition, application, or certificate authorized under section 21-521 and subsection (a) of section 21-541 may not be considered if made by a physician or qualified psychologist who is related by blood or marriage to the alleged mentally ill person, or who is financially interested in the hospital in which the alleged mentally ill person is to be detained, or, except in the case of physicians or qualified psychologists employed by the United States or the District of Columbia, who are professionally or officially connected with the hospital.”

D.C. Law 17-231, in subsec. (a)(1), substituted “blood, marriage, or domestic partnership” for “blood or marriage”.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(dd) of Mental Health Commitment Emergency Amendment Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-265, January 30, 2002, 49 DCR 1450).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(dd) of Mental Health Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-350, April 24, 2002, 49 DCR 4417).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(ee) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-546, December 12, 2002, 50 DCR 199).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(ee) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 50 DCR 2784).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(dd) of D.C. Law 14-131 amended subsec. (a) to read as follows:

“(a) A petition, application, or certificate authorized under section 21-521, section 21-541(a), section 21-545.01, or section 21-548 may not be considered if made by a psychiatrist, physician, or qualified psychologist who:

“(1) Is related by blood or marriage to the person about whom the petition, application, or certificate is made;

“(2) Is financially interested in the hospital in which the person is to be detained; or

“(3) Except in the case of psychiatrists, physicians, or qualified psychologists employed by the United States or the District of Columbia, are professionally or officially connected with the hospital.”.; and in subsec. (b), in the first sentence, deleted “alleged mentally ill”.

Section 5(b) of D.C. Law 14-131 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.

References in Text

Section 21-545.01, referred to in subsec. (a), is enacted only upon enactment of certain legislation by the United States Congress.


§ 21–583. Physicians, psychiatrists and qualified psychologists as witnesses.

A physician, psychiatrist or qualified psychologist making application or conducting an examination under this chapter is a competent and compellable witness at any trial, hearing or other proceeding conducted pursuant to this chapter and the physician- or psychologist-patient privilege is not applicable.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 760, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Feb. 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48, § 11(a)(19), 30 DCR 5778.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-583.

1973 Ed., § 21-583.


§ 21–584. Witness fees.

Witnesses subpoenaed under the provisions of this chapter shall be paid the same fees and mileage as are paid to other witnesses in the court.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 760, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 567, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 150(c)(6); Mar. 24, 1998, D.C. Law 12-81, § 14(l), 45 DCR 745.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-584.

1973 Ed., § 21-584.


§ 21–585. Confinement in jail prohibited.

A person apprehended, detained, or hospitalized under any provision of this chapter may not be confined in jail or in a penal or correctional institution.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 760, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-585.

1973 Ed., § 21-585.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-589.


§ 21–586. Financial responsibility for care of hospitalized persons; judicial enforcement.

(a) The father, mother, husband, wife, and adult children of a mentally ill person, if of sufficient ability, and the estate of the mentally ill person, if the estate is sufficient for the purpose, shall pay the cost to the District of Columbia of the mentally ill person’s maintenance, including treatment, in a hospital in which the person is hospitalized under this chapter. The Commission on Mental Health shall examine, under oath, the father, mother, husband, wife, and adult children of an alleged mentally ill person whenever those relatives live within the District of Columbia, and ascertain their ability or the ability of the estate to maintain or contribute toward the maintenance of the mentally ill person. The relatives or estate may not be required to pay more than the actual cost to the District of Columbia of maintenance of the alleged mentally ill person.

(b) If a person made liable by subsection (a) of this section for the maintenance of a mentally ill person fails so to provide or pay for the maintenance, the court shall issue to him a citation to show cause why he should not be adjudged to pay a portion or all of the expenses of maintenance of the patient. The citation shall be served at least 10 days before the hearing thereon. If, upon the hearing, it appears to the court that the mentally ill person has not sufficient estate out of which his maintenance may properly be fully met and that he has relatives of the degree referred to in subsection (a) of this section who are parties to the proceedings, and who are able to contribute thereto, the court may make an order requiring payment by the relatives of such sums as it finds that they are reasonably able to pay and as may be necessary to provide for the maintenance and treatment of the mentally ill person. The order shall require the payment of the sums to the District of Columbia treasurer annually, semiannually, quarterly, or monthly as the court directs. The treasurer shall collect the sums due under this section, and turn them into the Treasury of the United States to the credit of the District of Columbia. The order may be enforced against any property of the mentally ill person or of the person liable or undertaking to maintain him in the same way as if it were an order for temporary alimony in a divorce case.

(c) For purposes of this section only, the term “mentally ill person” means a person who has a mental illness, but does not include a person committed to a private or public hospital in the District of Columbia by order of the court in a criminal proceeding.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 760, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(ff), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-586.

1973 Ed., § 21-586.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 7-1203.02 and § 21-542.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 added subsec. (c).

Cross References

Mental health information disclosures to meet financial responsibility or compulsory reporting requirements, see § 7-1203.02.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(ee) of Mental Health Commitment Emergency Amendment Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-265, January 30, 2002, 49 DCR 1450).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(ee) of Mental Health Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-350, April 24, 2002, 49 DCR 4417).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(ff) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-546, December 12, 2002, 50 DCR 199).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(ff) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 50 DCR 2784).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(ee) of D.C. Law 14-131 added subsec. (c) to read as follows:

“(c) For purposes of this section only, the term ‘mentally ill person’ means a person who has a mental illness, but does not include a person committed to a private or public hospital in the District of Columbia by order of the court in a criminal proceeding.”

Section 5(b) of D.C. Law 14-131 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.

Editor's Notes

Law 17-358 amended this section subject to congressional enactment.


§ 21–587. Veterans’ Administration and military hospital facilities.

This chapter does not require the admission of a person to a Veterans’ Administration or military hospital facility unless the person is otherwise eligible for care and treatment in the facility.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 760, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-587.

1973 Ed., § 21-587.


§ 21–588. Forms.

All applications and certificates for the hospitalization of a person in the District of Columbia under this chapter shall be made on forms approved by the Commission on Mental Health and furnished by it.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 760, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-588.

1973 Ed., § 21-588.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-589.


§ 21–589. Persons hospitalized prior to September 15, 1964.

(a) Subject to subsection (b) of this section, the provisions of sections 21-546 to 21-551, subchapter V of this chapter and sections 21-585 and 21-588 apply to a person, who, on or after January 1, 1966, is a patient in a hospital in the District of Columbia by reason of having been declared insane or of unsound mind pursuant to a court order entered in a noncriminal proceeding prior to September 15, 1964.

(b) A request made by a patient referred to in subsection (a) of this section for an examination authorized by section 21-546 may be made on April 15, 1966, by the patient, or his attorney, legal guardian, spouse, parent, or other nearest adult relative, and not more frequently than every six months thereafter.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 761, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-589.

1973 Ed., § 21-589.


§ 21–589.01. Interim provisions for term of commitment.

(a) The commitment of a person committed under section 21-545 for an indeterminate period of time shall expire 548 days after December 10, 2004, unless the chief clinical officer of the Department, facility, hospital, or mental health provider has petitioned for recommitment of the person.

(b) A petition for recommitment under this section shall be subject to the provisions for a petition for renewal of commitment brought under section 21-545.01 unless the provision is inconsistent with this section.

(c) A petition for recommitment may be filed at any time during the 548-day period, but not later than 60 days prior to the expiration of the 548-day period. For good cause shown, a petition for recommitment may be filed within the last 60 days of the 548-day period.

(d) If a petition for recommitment is pending at the expiration of the 548-day period, the period of commitment shall be extended pending resolution of the petition.

(e) This section shall apply as of July 20, 2005.


(Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(gg), 50 DCR 917; Mar. 8, 2007, D.C. Law 16-235, § 2(b), 54 DCR 389.)

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 16-235 rewrote the section which had previously read as follows: “Any person committed for an indeterminate period of time pursuant to section 21-545 prior to January 1, 2003 shall have his commitment terminate no more than 18 months from January 1, 2003 unless the chief clinical officer of the Department, facility, hospital, or mental health provider has petitioned for recommitment under section 21-545.01. The petition for recommitment of those persons who were committed for an indeterminate period of time prior to January 1, 2003 may be filed at any time during the 18-month period, but no later than 60 days prior to the expiration of the period.”

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) addition of § 21-589.01, see § 2(gg) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-546, December 12, 2002, 50 DCR 199).

For temporary (90 day) addition of § 21-589.01, see § 2(gg) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 50 DCR 2784).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(b) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Extension Emergency Act of 2004 (D.C. Act 15-450, June 23, 2004, 51 DCR 6717).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(b) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Extension Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2004 (D.C. Act 15-526, August 2, 2004, 51 DCR 9140).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(b) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Extension Second Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2004 (D.C. Act 15-557, October 26, 2004, 51 DCR 10372).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(b) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Extension Emergency Act of 2006 (D.C. Act 16-390, June 14, 2006, 53 DCR 4887).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(b) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Extension Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2006 (D.C. Act 16-478, September 23, 2006, 53 DCR 7936).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(b) of D.C. Law 15-199 rewrote the section to read as follows: Ҥ 21-589.01. Interim provisions for term of commitment.

“(a) The commitment of a person committed under section 21-545 for an indeterminate period of time shall expire 548 days after the effective date of the federal law enacting section 2(d), (e), (l)(2), (r)(3) and (4), (t), and (u) of the Mental Health Civil Commitment Act of 2002, effective April 4, 2003 (D.C. Law 14-283; 50 DCR 917), unless the chief clinical officer of the Department, facility, hospital, or mental health provider has petitioned for recommitment of the person.

“(b) A petition for recommitment under this section shall be subject to the provisions for a petition for renewal of commitment brought under section 21-545.01 unless the provision is inconsistent with this section.

“(d) If a petition for recommitment is pending at the expiration of the 548-day period, the period of commitment shall be extended pending resolution of the petition.”

Section 4(b) of D.C. Law 15-199 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.

Section 2(b) of D.C. Law 16-182 amended this section to read as follows: Ҥ 21-589.01. Interim provisions for term of commitment.

“(a) The commitment of a person committed under section 21-545 for an indeterminate period of time shall expire 548 days after December 10, 2004, unless the chief clinical officer of the Department, facility, hospital, or mental health provider has petitioned for recommitment of the person.

“(b) A petition for recommitment under this section shall be subject to the provisions for a petition for renewal of commitment brought under section 21-545.01, unless the provision is inconsistent with this section.

“(c) A petition for recommitment may be filed at any time during the 548-day period, but not later than 60 days prior to the expiration of the 548-day period. For good cause shown, a petition for recommitment may be filed within the last 60 days of the 548-day period.

“(d) If a petition for recommitment is pending at the expiration of the 548-day period, the period of commitment shall be extended pending resolution of the petition.

“(e) This section shall apply as of July 20, 2005.”

Section 4(b) of D.C. Law 16-182 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.

References in Text

Section 21-545.01, referred to in text, is enacted only upon enactment of certain legislation by the United States Congress.


§ 21–590. Discharge as cured; restoration to legal status. [Repealed]

Repealed.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 761, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 567, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 150(c)(3); Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(hh), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-590.

1973 Ed., § 21-590.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(ff) of Mental Health Commitment Emergency Amendment Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-265, January 30, 2002, 49 DCR 1450).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(ff) of Mental Health Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-350, April 24, 2002, 49 DCR 4417).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(b) of Mental Health Commitment Clarification Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-363, May 20, 2002, 49 DCR 5070).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(b) of Mental Health Commitment Clarification Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-416, July 17, 2002, 49 DCR 7385).

For temporary (90 day) repeal of section, see § 2(hh) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-546, December 12, 2002, 50 DCR 199).

For temporary (90 day) repeal of section, see § 2(hh) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 50 DCR 2784).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(ff) of D.C. Law 14-131 amended this section to read as follows: “§ 21-590. Persons committed prior to the effective date the Mental Health Commitment Temporary Act of 2002. Any person committed for an indeterminate period of time pursuant to section 21-545 prior to the effective date of the Mental Health Commitment Temporary Act of 2002, passed on 2nd reading on February 5, 2002 (Enrolled version of Bill 14-502), shall have his commitment terminate no more than 18 months from the effective date of the Mental Health Commitment Temporary act of 2002 unless the chief clinical officer of the Department, facility, hospital, or mental health provider has petitioned for recommitment under section 21-545.01. The petition for recommitment of those persons who were committed prior to the effective date of the Mental Health Commitment Temporary Act of 2002 may be filed at any time during the 18-month period, but no later than 60 days prior to the expiration of the period.”

Section 5(b) of D.C. Law 14-131 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.

Section 2(b) of D.C. Law 14-187 amended this section to read as follows: “§ 21-590. Interim provisions for term of commitment. Any person committed for an indeterminate period of time pursuant to section 21-545 shall have his commitment terminate no more than 18 months from January 30, 2002 unless the chief clinical officer of the Department, facility, hospital, or mental health provider has petitioned for recommitment under section 21-545.01. The petition for recommitment of those persons who were committed for an indeterminate period of time pursuant to section 21-545 may be filed at any time during the 18-month period, but no later than 60 days prior to the expiration of the period.”

Section 4(b) of D.C. Law 14-187 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.


§ 21–591. Offenses and penalties.

Whoever:

(1) without probable cause for believing a person to be mentally ill:

(A) causes or conspires with or assists another person to cause the hospitalization, under this chapter, of the person first referred to; or

(B) executes a petition, application, or certificate pursuant to this chapter, by which he secures or attempts to secure the apprehension, hospitalization, detention, or restraint of the person first referred to;

(2) causes or conspires with or assists another person to cause the denial to a person of a right accorded to him by this chapter; or

(3) being a physician, psychiatrist or qualified psychologist, knowingly makes a false certificate or application pursuant to this chapter as to the mental condition of a person —

shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in [§ 22-3571.01] or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 761, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Feb. 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48, § 11(a)(20), 30 DCR 5778; June 11, 2013, D.C. Law 19-317, § 282, 60 DCR 2064.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-591.

1973 Ed., § 21-591.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-317 substituted “not more than the amount set forth in [§ 22-3571.01]” for “not more than $5,000” in the last line.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 282 of the Criminal Fine Proportionality Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-45, April 1, 2013, 60 DCR 5400, 20 DCSTAT 1300).

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-317: Section 401 of D.C. Law 19-317 provided that the act shall apply only to offenses committed on or after June 11, 2013.


§ 21–592. Return to hospital of an escaped mentally ill person.

When a person has been ordered confined in a hospital or institution for the mentally ill pursuant to this chapter and has left such hospital or institution without authorization or has failed to return as directed, the court which ordered confinement shall, upon the request of the administrator of such hospital or institution, order the return of such person to such hospital or institution.


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 568, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 150(c)(7)(A).)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-592.

1973 Ed., § 21-592.

Cross References

Fugitives from welfare institutions, reward for apprehension, see § 24-201.27.