State v. R.L.M.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 03-03-2021
  • Case #: A173009
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Aoyagi, J. for the Court; Armstrong, P.J.; & Tookey, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under ORS 426.005(1)(f)(B) and for the purposes of a basic-needs civil commitment, the evidence must establish not only that a person’s inability to attend to a basic need risks the person suffering an adverse medical consequence, but also how soon that adverse consequence is likely to occur.

Appellant appealed a judgment committing him to the custody of the Oregon Health Authority on the basis that he was unable to provide for his basic needs due to a mental disorder. Appellant argued that the evidence presented at trial was legally insufficient for a basic-needs commitment. In response, the state argued that there was sufficient evidence that demonstrated how “appellant’s mental disorder interfere[d] with his ability to manage a serious health condition.” A “person with mental illness” may be committed in accordance with ORS 426.130 if the person, because of a mental disorder, is “unable to provide for basic needs that are necessary to avoid serious physical harm.” ORS 426.005(1)(f)(B). Importantly, the evidence must establish how soon the anticipated harm will likely occur if the appellant is released and is unable to provide for his or her basic needs. See State v. S.P., 282 Or App 177, 181, 186-87, 387 P3d 443 (2016). When asked at trial whether appellant’s failure to take his heart medication put him “at risk of imminent serious injury or death,” the doctor answered that “it put appellant at risk of death but that it was too ‘unpredictable’ to say if it was imminent.” The Court found that “[t]hat testimony [did] not quantify the near-term risk to appellant in any way and, thus, [did] not satisfy the legal standard for a basic-needs commitment.” Therefore, the Court held that the trial court erred in committing appellant on the basis that it did. Reversed.

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