Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Psychiatric Evaluation: State to State Differences

This news report from August 21, 2012 CBS News indicates that at least in Virginia, a person posting what seems to some to be signs of murderous intent will get him taken in custody for psychiatric evaluation:
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A former Marine involuntarily detained for psychiatric evaluation for posting strident anti-government messages on Facebook has received an outpouring of support from people who say authorities are trampling on his First Amendment rights.
Brandon J. Raub, 26, has been in custody since FBI and Secret Service agents and Chesterfield County police questioned him Thursday evening about what they considered ominous posts talking of a coming revolution. In one message earlier this month, Raub wrote: “Sharpen my axe; I’m here to sever heads.”
Police — acting under a state law that allows emergency, temporary psychiatric commitments upon the recommendation of a mental health professional — took Raub to the John Randolph Medical Center in Hopewell. He was not charged with any crime.
That is somewhat worrisome...until you find out that the quoted text are lyrics from a rap band's song.  Perhaps there was more on his Facebook page than this, or perhaps there was additional information that caused the FBI and Secret Service to show up at his door.  On the other hand, in Colorado, a psychiatrist treating James Holmes could not get police to pursue what she obviously consider a very genuine danger before Holmes went Joker.

If, as some think, Raub was taken into custody for antigovernment thoughts, there are not enough hospitals to hold everyone.  There aren't enough police to take everyone into custody.  Until we get a bit more information, I think assuming that this action was political repression is unjustified.

UPDATE: This account from the August 21, 2012 Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch reports some of the other things he posted.  I can see why, especially after recent tragedies, people expressed concern to the FBI.  His three day observational hold has been extended to 30 days--usually a sign that psychiatrists evaluated him, and concluded that he was having serious problems.

UPDATE 2: Here is Virginia's emergency commitment statute, under which Raub was hospitalized:

§ 37.2-808. Emergency custody; issuance and execution of order
A. Any magistrate shall issue, upon the sworn petition of any responsible person, treating physician, or upon his own motion, an emergency custody order when he has probable cause to believe that any person (i) has a mental illness and that there exists a substantial likelihood that, as a result of mental illness, the person will, in the near future, (a) cause serious physical harm to himself or others as evidenced by recent behavior causing, attempting, or threatening harm and other relevant information, if any, or (b) suffer serious harm due to his lack of capacity to protect himself from harm or to provide for his basic human needs, (ii) is in need of hospitalization or treatment, and (iii) is unwilling to volunteer or incapable of volunteering for hospitalization or treatment. Any emergency custody order entered pursuant to this section shall provide for the disclosure of medical records pursuant to § 37.2-804.2. This subsection shall not preclude any other disclosures as required or permitted by law.
 I think it is no coincidence that this statute was last revised in the legislative session after the Virginia Tech massacre--where a failure to involuntarily commit a schizophrenic college student made it possible for him to legally buy firearms with which he carried out this crime.


  1. His remarks in the linked article seem rather lucid. He also states (no corroboration) that he does not own a gun. It's not at all clear to me that he is a danger to anyone, based upon the (admittedly limited) evidence.

  2. I have since found other statements that are quoted from his Facebook page that seem to give reason for concern -- remarks about having to start the Revolution by himself.

  3. Just an FYI, the person in question was released by a judge because the commitment was "devoid of any factual allegations."


    Do you mind following up on this story. I can see that maybe the initial judge erred due to caution for public safety, but I can also see that the abuse of such an order may set back TDO's for those who truly need them. Unfortunately, the local media seems to have dropped the matter and the only people talking further are those pushing conspiracy theories.