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Unreasonable Search and Seizure for Mental Health Treatment

Beth Mitchell, J.D., Advocacy Inc.

Individuals deemed mentally ill are routinely seized in their homes by police officers for the purpose of emergency mental health treatment. Although the majority of these seizures result in no injury, police officers' conduct is often dehumanizing and confrontational, increasing the possibility of injury or the exacerbation of the person's distress. This conduct persists even though most officers are now trained on appropriate intervention strategies for detaining people in these circumstances. We will explore the contours of the Fourth Amendment constitutional requirement that all seizures be reasonable This includes "knocking and announcing" prior to entering a person's dwelling and use of reasonable force when detaining an individual. We will also discuss how courts, when determining whether an officer's conduct is reasonable, should consider the individual's "pre-seizure" conduct and the training provided to officers. The discussion will revolve around the facts of a case that is currently before the 5th Circuit.