Colorado Mental Health M-1 Holds – The Power To Arrest And To Detain -27-65-102 C.R.S. – On December 31, 2017, Douglas County Sheriff Zack Parrish, 29, was shot and killed by Matthew Riehl. Four other law enforcement officers and two neighbors were also shot, but they survived.
While I have written on M-1 Holds before – in light of Officer Parrish’s tragic death – I thought it would be the right time to revisit the area. Officer Parrish was a hero and was enforcing one of the most dangerous laws required of Colorado law enforcement. The M-1 Hold places a duty on the shoulders of the brace men and women patrolling our streets to take into custody – most often against their will – persons suffering from extreme mental health issues.
At the time he was shot, Officer Parrish was talking through a door to a man who had barricaded himself in his apartment bathroom. The officers were trying to seize and detain Riehl on what is called an M-1 “a mental-health hold.”
Douglas County Sheriff Spurlock said this:
“Up until the moment Deputy Zack Parrish died, he was pleading with the man, begging him, ‘Let me talk to you. Let me help you. Please.’
And then the killer killed him.”
“I assure you that the men and women of this office, in conjunction with all of our partners, we are committed to do whatever we can to (address) the mental health issues in this county and whatever we can do anywhere in this state,”
“This department is hurting and this community is hurting.”
How did this happen?
Riehl’s History Of Mental Illness
Like many other cases that end up in the criminal justice system, there were numerous warnings that led up to this tragic ending. Riehl was bi-polar and suffered from PTSD. As is common – he had stopped taking his medications and was not receiving treatment of any kind at the time he was contacted by Douglas County Deputies.
There are limits on what the State can do for an adult who refuses to comply with the kind of treatment that would control for their mental health issues. The Colorado Mental Health M-1 Hold is a poor and very dangerous substitute for comprehensvie mental health care. Many professionals in this area, through as organizations such as NAMI, are working day and night to solve this difficult problem.
Understanding The Colorado M-1 Hold – Another Look
It may seem obvious, but as a recent politician put it – having a mental illness is not against the law – it’s not a crime.
Arresting someone – taking someone into custody is considered the last option chosen among a limited number of other options. The law reflects this troubling problem.
In Colorado, and in most other states, sets a very high bar before someone can be seized involuntarily for mental health reasons.
In 2016, 37,771 people were placed on mental health holds in Colorado and some people were placed on more than one M-1 Hold. While the statistics are rough authorities believe there were a total of 52,661 involuntary 72-hour holds.
The Standards For M-1 Holds In Colorado
To be “eligible” to be involuntarily taken into custody a person must be an imminent danger to themselves or others or so gravely disabled by mental illness that they cannot feed or care for themselves.
The decision on when and under what circumstances a person can be arrested on an M-1 is carefully controlled by statute.
While family members may ask for an M-1- Hold – only a law enforcement officer or a licensed medical or mental health professional can make the decision to place someone on a hold. A family member cannot. Mental health holds are viewed as a last resort and issues of civil liberties are always present because the M-1 hold procedure always provides risks both to the detainee and to the persons responsible, usually cops, for placing the holds.
Recent Attempts To Better Define The Risk To Others Language In The M-1 Hold Colorado Statute
Recent changes to the law have created better definitions around the risk to others — the law requires:
1. Evidence of recent homicidal or other violent behavior by the person in question
2. A concern that people might be harmed as evidenced by a recent overt act, attempt, or threat to do serious physical harm by the person in question.
Here is a link Colorado Mental Health Holds 27-65-105 – 1 to the complete law:
Trying to factor in these standards still require a judgment call on what is “imminent” – when it is necessary “right now” to effectuate the arrest. The term “imminent” applies to the proximity in time of the dangerousness.
“Imminent” applies to a determination of whether the danger to others or himself or herself is current – it does not apply to how soon in time a specific dangerous act may be undertaken.
2017 Law Prohibits Arresting And Jailing Detainees On M-1 Holds
As of August 2017, Colorado authorities may no longer use jails to lock up people who are suicidal or in mental health crisis.
Placing the mentally ill behind bars, as barbaric as that sounds, was common in many Colorado communities because of a lack of bed space. Prior to this correction in the law, only 7 states permitted the practice. Now there are only 6.
Colorado Senate Bill 17-207 bans the use of jails to house people who are a “danger to themselves or others” but have not committed any crime.
A Comprehensive Review Of The Colorado M-1 Involuntary Commitment – The Mental Health Hold – Section 27-65-102 C.R.S.
Colorado Revised Statute 27.65 Title 27, Article 65, of the Colorado Revised Statutes contains a number of laws relating to behavioral health situations.
Always read the law:
(1) Emergency procedure may be invoked under either one of the following two conditions:
(a)(I) When any person appears to have a mental illness and, as a result of such mental illness, appears to be an imminent danger to others or to himself or herself
or appears to be gravely disabled,
then a person specified in subparagraph (II) of this paragraph (a), each of whom is referred to in this section as the “intervening professional”, upon probable cause and with such assistance as may be required, may take the person into custody, or cause the person to be taken into custody, and placed in a facility designated or approved by the executive director for a seventy-two-hour treatment and evaluation.
The following persons may effect a seventy-two-hour hold:
1. Placement of a 72-hour Hold
A. The following persons may place a 72-hour hold:
1) Certified peace officer
2) Physician or Licensed Psychologist with a license in the state of Colorado
3) An APRN with psychiatric/mental health training (i.e. Psychiatric NP)
4) Licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed professional counselor, or licensed addiction counselor who by reason of postgraduate education and additional preparation has gained knowledge, judgment, and skill in psychiatric or clinical mental health therapy, forensic psychotherapy, or the evaluation of mental disorders.
5) Licensed clinical social worker.
72 Hours Is A Hard Deadline For Evaluation And Treatment
Under an M-1 hold, a licensed provided only has up to 72 hours to provide evaluation and treatment. Again, the 72 hours is for treatment and, more importantly, evaluation to determine if they need to be involuntarily committed to treatment.
C.R.S. § 27-65-105, the section that governs mental health emergency procedure, continues to read “imminent danger to others or to himself or herself…”
The phrase, “danger to self or others” has been recently further defined to read:
“With respect to an individual, that the individual poses a substantial risk of physical harm to himself or herself as manifested by evidence of recent threats of or attempts at suicide or serious bodily harm to himself or herself; or”
“With respect to other persons, that the individual poses a substantial risk of physical harm to another person or persons, as manifested by evidence of recent homicidal or other violent behavior by the person in question, or by evidence that others are placed in reasonable fear of violet behavior and serious physical harm to them, as evidenced by a recent overt act, attempt, or threat to do serious physical harm by the person in question.”
What Happens At The End Of The 72 Hours Period?
While some clinics and hospitals view the 72 hour period as “flexible” it is not. At the end of the 72 hours:
1. The patient must be discharged;
2. The patient may opt to stay as a voluntary patient;
3. The court may be asked by the Hospital to extend the hold up to an additional 90 days.
If the M-1 hold is extended it is called an ‘M-8 Hold’ or an ‘M-8 certification’. If proper procedures are followed, the patient’s hospitalization can be extended usually by another 90 days under an M-8 Hold.
For some excellent direction from a Colorado in this area – follow this link to licensed psychiatrist Dr. Max Wectel.
Colorado Mental Health M-1 Holds – The Power To Arrest And To Detain – 27-65-102 C.R.S.
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The contents of this article are based upon my research, my personal experience and my personal analysis and opinions developed from my thirty six years (as of 2017) of criminal trial experience from both sides of the courtroom – as a former career prosecutor for Arapahoe and Douglas Counties (13 years) and as the owner of my own Criminal Defense Law Firm since 1999 (18 years).
The reader is also admonished that Colorado criminal law, like criminal law in every state and at the Federal level, changes constantly. The article appearing above was accurate at the time it was drafted but it cannot account for changes occurring after it was uploaded.
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H. Michael works hard to get his clients the best possible results in and out of the courtroom. He has written, and continues to write, extensively on Colorado criminal law and he hopes this article helps you in some small way – Colorado Mental Health M-1 Holds – The Power To Arrest And To Detain -27-65-102 C.R.S..