SB 359

84(R) - 2015
Senate Health & Human Services
Senate Health & Human Services

Companion Bill

HB 3677

Vote Recommendation

  • Neutral
  • Neutral
  • Neutral
  • Positive
  • Negative


Royce West


Joan Huffman

Bill Caption

Relating to the authority of a peace officer to apprehend a person for emergency detention and the authority of certain facilities to temporarily detain a person with mental illness.

Fiscal Notes

No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.

The Department of State Health Services indicates that the provisions of the bill can be implemented within existing resources.

No significant fiscal implication to units of local government is anticipated.

Bill Analysis

Current law prevents hospitals and emergency departments from detaining a person who voluntarily requests treatment and then expresses a desire to leave before the treatment is complete.

The legislation would allow an aforementioned facility to detain a person, who voluntarily requested treatment from the facility or who lacks the capacity to consent to treatment, if a person expresses a desire to leave the facility or attempts to leave the facility before the examination or treatment is completed; and a physician at the facility:

  1. has reason to believe and does believe that the person has a mental illness; and because of that mental illness there is a substantial risk of serious harm to the person or to others unless the person is immediately restrained; and
  2. believes that there is not sufficient time to file an application for emergency detention or for an order of protective custody.

The temporary detention period would not be allowed to exceed four hours after the person expresses a desire to leave or attempted to leave the facility.

The bill would also expand the authoritative duty of a peace officer by permitting a peace officer to take a person, who has been admitted into a mental health facility, a hospital, or emergency room, into custody.

The bill explicitly states the detention of a person under this section would not be considered involuntary psychiatric hospitalization for purposes of being incapable of exercising sound judgment with respect to the proper use and storage of a handgun as described by Section 411.172 (e) of the Government Code.

Vote Recommendation Notes

We have deep reservations about this legislation because it violates individual liberty by denying a person their right to refuse treatment, after they voluntarily requested treatment.

In our view, involuntary detention and forced treatment for people not charged with a crime are options to be exercised only in exigent circumstances and with great care and effort not to infringe on individual liberty.

In the (hopefully) extremely rare circumstances under which such action is warranted, that authority would be more appropriately vested in officers of the law and not in other private individuals regardless of their professional credentials and qualifications. 

Our deep reservations notwithstanding, we do recognize that there is a legitimate public health and safety risk in extreme cases when people with severe mental illness become a clear risk to others. It is preferable in those cases to have any potential detainment made by a law enforcement officer. However, law enforcement officers can't be everywhere all the time which leaves exposed the problem this legislation seeks to address. 

Balancing our deep reservations about this legislation against our understanding that there is a legitimate case here for the legislature to consider, we are neutral on SB 359.

On a positive note, we are pleased that the committee substitute clarified that the involuntary detention authority that would be permitted under this legislation would not be considered involuntary psychiatric hospitalization for purposes of abridging the detainee's civil rights under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. This provision supports our view of limited government.