A section 35 is a civil commitment of a person that is having alcohol or substance abuse issues. This is how it works. There is a person who is abusing drugs or alcohol. A family member, police officer, guardian or court official petitions the court to section the individual, which means to detain and send the abuser to a treatment facility. The court has a doctor talk to the abuser and to give an opinion to the court about the severity of the abuser’s condition. The court rules on whether the person should be detained for treatment.
Now an abuser can voluntary agree to be sectioned and go to a treatment center up to 30 days or an abuser could fight the petition. If the drug or alcohol abuser agrees to voluntary go to treatment, and then the court will usually send that person to treatment. If the abuser doesn’t want to be committed, the abuser is afforded a hearing.
In a hearing, the abuser has the right to be represented by a lawyer. The court will hear from the doctor and usually the petitioner. The lawyer is usually allowed to question the doctor. In order to hold an abuser and force them to go into treatment, the court needs to find that the drugs or alcohol either substantially injure the abuser’s health, interferes with his social or economic functioning or has lost the power of self control over use of drugs or alcohol.
Now if after the hearing, the judge finds that “there is a likelihood of serious harm as a result of his alcoholism or substance abuse, it may order such person to be committed for a period not to exceed thirty days” (M.G.L Ch. 123 sec. 35). The person is usually then sent to Bridgewater for treatment and can’t be held for more than 30 days. The state does encourage Bridgewater to allow people to voluntarily stay after the 30 days is up for treatment.
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