What is a Section 35 petition?
A Section 35 petition is a civil proceeding for people with an addiction. It allows for someone who has an addiction to alcohol and/or legal or illegal drugs, called a respondent, to be involuntarily committed to a treatment facility for up to 90 days.
This person must present an imminent “likelihood of serious harm” to themselves or others because of the addiction. A person doesn't meet criteria for being committed just because they have an alcohol and/or substance use disorder. This law is intended as an emergency measure. It's not a long-term solution to alcohol and/or substance use disorders.
Section 35 defines “likelihood of serious harm” as:
- A substantial risk of physical harm to the person himself as manifested by evidence of, threats of, or attempt at, suicide or serious bodily harm;
- A substantial risk of physical harm to other persons as manifested by evidence of homicidal or other violent behavior or evidence that others are placed in reasonable fear of violent behavior and serious physical harm to them; or
- A very substantial risk of physical impairment or injury to the person himself as manifested by evidence that such person’s judgment is so affected that he is unable to protect himself in the community and that reasonable provision for his protection is not available in the community.
The “likelihood of serious harm” must be current and directly related to the alcohol and/or substance use disorder.
Who can request a Section 35?
The only people who can petition, called the petitioner, to have someone involuntarily committed for alcohol or substance abuse treatment are:
- Blood relative
- Police officer
- Court official
People who don’t qualify as petitioners include:
- Girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other
- Therapist, social worker
- Representative payee
- Concerned citizen
Who is eligible to be sectioned under Section 35?
A person who consistently abuses alcohol and/or legal or illegal drugs, and because of that abuse, presents an immediate danger to themselves or others, is eligible to be sectioned under Section 35. There must be evidence to confirm both that the substance abuse is serious and that there’s an immediate risk of harm. It’s not enough that the person refuses to stop abusing substances if there’s no imminent risk because of the addiction.