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ETpro's avatar

When is intervention legal?

Asked by ETpro (34436points) March 16th, 2011

Forcibly restraining someone, keeping them confined to a particular space against their will for drug or alcohol intervention or cult deprogramming may be done with the very best of intentions. Usually, the detainee’s loved ones and immediate family are behind the move. But if the person detained is an adult and hasn’t been found mentally incompetent to make decisions for themselves, is it legal? Could the person being so detained bring charges of kidnapping or forcible detention?

Does anyone know of criminal complaints being sustained against interventionists or deprogrammers? Are there legal steps required to avoid problems with the law when an intervention or cult deprogramming is planned?

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15 Answers

john65pennington's avatar

The police constantly deal with legal intervention. A good example is a cry for help from inside a locked apartment. Legal intervention is allowed, by law, in this situation. I have kicked in many doors of houses and apartments, once I was convinced there was an emergency inside. The government is responsible for repairs associated with police intervention.

Another good example is a person attempting suicide. Attempting suicide is a law violation in all the states. Once a person comments or states to another person that he/she wants to commit suicide, it’s the job of the police to intervene.

In my 44 years of law enforcement, I have never heard one complaint about the police intervening, in a serious situation.

Seek's avatar

@john65pennington I think you’re misunderstanding the question.

I think in Cop-Speak, what the OP is referring to is either “False Imprisonment” or “Kidnapping”.

i.e., Your brother is a heroin addict. You pick up your brother one day, strap him to a hospital bed in your basement, and say “You’re not getting out of here until you’re not addicted to heroin anymore. Because you’re my brother and I love you”.

The problem with these “interventions” is that the intervening party is not a professional, and has neither the training nor the license (nor, likely, the equipment and materials) to facilitate a safe and effective detoxification treatment. (“Prayer” does not constitute equipment, materials, or training.) An addict is likely to die from withdrawal.

No, it’s not legal to lock up your family members with the intent of curing them.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@john65pennington Have you ever done a 51/50? I think that’s the question at hand.

@Seek_Kolinahr A 5150 is not kidnapping.

@ETpro I’m not certain about the legal ramifications. However, I think the person filing a complaint would have a lot of explaining to do to the judge if the family/friends had plenty of motive for choosing such a method in the first place.

Pandora's avatar

@SpatzieLover LOL, Yeah, I can see that. “You see Judge I was happily high on drugs and my family cleaned me out without my consent.” Whats that you say. I was doing something illegal. Jail? No drugs in jail for the next 6 months!” Uhhhmmm, lets call this whole thing even.
As for the cult, I would guess it would depend on how successful the deprogrammer is. If they do their job the person probably won’t bring charges. If not successful the person will have to prove that they were detained and who did it. I don’t think a deprogrammer hands out his card or even does the grabbing where there can be witnesses. The family members who hired no doubt will volunteer that information either.
Plus if the cult is seen as a group of loony toons I doubt the police will take the accusations seriously, especially if your walking about freely and look unharmed.
Besides I guess it can be seen as forced mental therapy.
Another reason is because most cults like to operate under the radar. The last thing they want is for this to come out in court about their practices being cult like. It may deter future culties.

SpatzieLover's avatar

“You see Judge I was happily high on drugs and my family cleaned me out without my consent.” Whats that you say. I was doing something illegal. Jail? No drugs in jail for the next 6 months!” Uhhhmmm, lets call this whole thing even.

Precisely @Pandora. :)

That’s how I’ve seen things play out locally in the past. Actually, the judge usually has the DA dig up some dirt on them, and occasionally adds some jail time for wasting his/her court time.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@john65pennington No, suicide attempts are not illegal in any states.

Jeruba's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr! welcome back, sweetie!

ETpro's avatar

@john65pennington Thanks, but @Seek_Kolinahr is correct. I am not talking about police intervention under probable cause. I am talking about family members and possibly expert help that they hire, help that may or may not have any real credentials in dealing with what they are going to confront. And @MyNewtBoobs is correct,. those states that did have suicide laws on the books have now repealed them.

I am sure the likelihood of successful reprisals for an attempt at intervention vary based on whether it is successful (no reprisals for that) and on what activity the family members are trying to suppress. Courts would probably look very unfavorably on a family of Baptists tying a family member to a chair and browbeating them for days over converting to Mormonism, for instance. Also, it isn’t illegal to be a Hare Krishna or to drink yourself into a stupor at night. Illogical, perhaps self destructive, but not illegal.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Based upon the most recent episode of Harry’s Law, it’s never legal. But I don’t really know what David Kelley’s background in law is, so…

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

I wonder if it’s often not so much legal as that the person who is restrained doesn’t press charges.

Seek's avatar

For the record, suicide attempts ARE illegal, in every state.

Seek's avatar

It seems that attempted suicide is no longer seen as a criminal offense, but that doesn’t make it legal. One can be forcibly placed in custody of mental health professionals at the word of any law enforcement officer. As far as I know, at least Florida and California have versions of the Baker Act.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

“Historically, various states listed the act of suicide as a felony, but these policies were sparsely enforced. By 1963, six states still considered attempted suicide a crime (North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, New Jersey, Nevada, and Oklahoma, which repealed its law in 1976). By the early 1990s only two states still listed suicide as a crime, and these have since removed that classification. In some U.S. states, suicide is still considered an unwritten “common law crime,” as stated in Blackstone’s Commentaries. (So held the Virginia Supreme Court in Wackwitz v. Roy in 1992.) As a common law crime, suicide can bar recovery for the late suicidal person’s family in a lawsuit unless the suicidal person can be proven to have been “of unsound mind.” That is, the suicide must be proven to have been an involuntary act of the victim in order for the family to be awarded monetary damages by the court. This can occur when the family of the deceased sues the caregiver (perhaps a jail or hospital) for negligence in failing to provide appropriate care.”

Welcome back!

Seek's avatar

Yes, I just stated that it is not a criminal offense. There are several different types of law violations, not just criminal offenses. As stated above, it can be considered a civil offense with regard to life insurance recovery, and one can be legally detained in order to reduce risk of harm to self and others.

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