On July 24, 2015, a new section of Washington State’s involuntary mental health treatment law, Chapter 71.05 Revised Code of Washington (RCW), goes into effect. This new section is called Joel’s Law. This allows a person’s immediate family member, legal guardian, or conservator to petition the superior court for initial detention under certain conditions. 

Download instructions for petitioning here

Decision not to detain—Petition for detention by family member, guardian, or conservator—Court review.

(1) If a designated mental health professional decides not to detain a person for evaluation and treatment under RCW 71.05.150 or 71.05.153 or forty-eight hours have elapsed since a designated mental health professional received a request for investigation and the designated mental health professional has not taken action to have the person detained, an immediate family member or guardian or conservator of the person may petition the superior court for the person’s initial detention.

(2)(a) The petition must be submitted on forms developed by the administrative office of the courts for this purpose. The petition must be accompanied by a sworn declaration from the petitioner, and other witnesses if desired, describing why the person should be detained for evaluation and treatment. The description of why the person should be detained may contain, but is not limited to, the information identified in RCW 71.05.212.

(b) The petition must contain:

(i) A description of the relationship between the petitioner and the person; and

(ii) The date on which an investigation was requested from the designated mental health professional.

(3) The court shall, within one judicial day, review the petition to determine whether the petition raises sufficient evidence to support the allegation. If the court so finds, it shall provide a copy of the petition to the designated mental health professional agency with an order for the agency to provide the court, within one judicial day, with a written sworn statement describing the basis for the decision not to seek initial detention and a copy of all information material to the designated mental health professional’s current decision.

(4) Following the filing of the petition and before the court reaches a decision, any person, including a mental health professional, may submit a sworn declaration to the court in support of or in opposition to initial detention.

(5) The court shall dismiss the petition at any time if it finds that a designated mental health professional has filed a petition for the person’s initial detention under RCW 71.05.150 or 71.05.153 or that the person has voluntarily accepted appropriate treatment.

(6) The court must issue a final ruling on the petition within five judicial days after it is filed. After reviewing all of the information provided to the court, the court may enter an order for initial detention if the court finds that: (a) There is probable cause to support a petition for detention; and (b) the person has refused or failed to accept appropriate evaluation and treatment voluntarily. The court shall transmit its final decision to the petitioner.

(7) If the court enters an order for initial detention, it shall provide the order to the designated mental health professional agency, which shall execute the order without delay. An order for initial detention under this section expires one hundred eighty days from issuance.

(8) Except as otherwise expressly stated in this chapter, all procedures must be followed as if the order had been entered under RCW 71.05.150. RCW 71.05.160 does not apply if detention was initiated under the process set forth in this section.

(9) For purposes of this section, “immediate family member” means a spouse, domestic partner, child, stepchild, parent, stepparent, grandparent, or sibling.

[2015 c 258 § 2.]