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State v. D. M.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 09-08-2011
Case #: A144549
Duncan, J. for the Court; Haselton, P.J; & Armstrong, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A144549.pdf

Civil Law: In the absence of clear and convincing evidence that because of a mental disorder a person’s life is threatened by their inability to secure basic self-care, probable homelessness and the mere possibility of life-threateningly cold weather do not provide sufficient basis for civil commitment where there is no reason to believe that the individual would not seek shelter.

Following two encounters with police officers and mental health professionals, a trial court committed D. M. to the Oregon Health Authority on the ground that he suffered from a mental disorder, was unable to provide for basic personal needs, and was not receiving care necessary for health or safety. On appeal, D. M. contended that the state failed to prove that he was unable to provide for his basic needs. The Court of Appeals agreed, noting that although D. M. may have been homeless, that alone was not a basis for his commitment; there was no evidence that he had suffered, or was at risk of suffering, life-threatening harm. The weather was not life-threateningly cold and there was only a “mere possibility” that it would become so. Further, there was no reason to believe that D. M. would not seek shelter if the weather became life-threateningly cold. Reversed.