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Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly

Abstract

This Article highlights that individuals who suffer from mental health problems can be particularly defenseless against an attack on their liberty through criminal and civil law. Specifically, it delineates how the current laws allow for a potential indefinite commitment of a person who may not have even committed a single crime. The Article explains that constitutionally mandated standards should be required to protect individuals who face losing their liberty due to the perceived threat of future harm. The authors posit that, while preventing individuals from harming themselves or others is an honorable goal, the state should only be able to intervene when the threat is truly imminent. Further, the Article argues that the ability to commit individuals with fewer protections than those offered under criminal law and use a lower burden of proof without a jury, is a powerful weapon of oppression that no government should wield. This Article concludes that leaving these decisions in the hands of largely unsupervised state agents, who rarely face appeal, is an injustice to the afflicted, and this essentially unrestrained power must change.

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