This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of Tracy Allan Boyd


Filed January 10, 2006


Minge, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. 27-MH-PR-05-533




Allan R. Poncin, 401 Second Avenue South, Suite 550, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant Boyd)


Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, John L. Kirwin, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent Hennepin County)


            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and Worke, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N


MINGE, Judge


            Appellant Tracy Allen Boyd appeals the judgment committing him as a mentally ill person for in-patient treatment under the Minnesota Commitment and Treatment Act (“Act”), Minn. Stat. §§ 253B.01-.23 (2004).  Appellant asserts that his pre-commitment confinement in a county jail so violated the requirements of law that his commitment should be reversed.  Because appellant had other adequate remedies to challenge improper pre-commitment confinement, we affirm.



Appellant’s civil commitment stems from an incident in which he assaulted a fellow bus passenger.  Appellant was charged with misdemeanor fifth-degree assault.  On May 23, 2005, the Hennepin County district court found him incompetent to stand trial and, pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, dismissed the criminal charge.  The district court then petitioned for appellant’s civil commitment as a mentally ill person under the Act.  On May 26, 2005, a judge of the Hennepin County district court, probate/mental health division, issued a hold order, which stated that the Hennepin County Medical Center (“HCMC”) would serve as appellant’s pre-commitment treatment facility.  See Minn. Stat. § 253B.07, subd. 2b.  However, the order authorized appellant’s detention at the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center until a bed became available at HCMC.

            The record reflects that HCMC did not have space available to accommodate appellant before the commitment hearing.  Although appellant’s counsel complained to the referee at the preliminary hearing, appellant’s counsel did not raise this issue with the judge of the probate/mental health division prior to his closing argument at the commitment hearing on June 8, 2005.  Appellant remained jailed through the 16-day pre-commitment process.

            Immediately following the commitment hearing, the district court ordered appellant’s civil commitment as a mentally ill person pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 13(a)(1) or (3).  This appeal followed. 



            The issue before this court is whether appellant’s 16-day pre-commitment confinement so violated the Act and principles of due process as to require dismissal of his commitment.  On the statutory side, appellant argues that his confinement in jail during the pre-commitment process, rather than in a treatment facility as contemplated by the Act, was so legally deficient that this court must reverse his commitment.  See Minn. Stat. §§ 253B.07, subd. 2b, .02 subd. 19.  Because this issue deals both with constitutional rights and statutory interpretation, the proper standard of review is de novo.  In re Brown, 640 N.W.2d 919, 922 (Minn. 2002).

In evaluating this issue, three legal considerations are important.  First, we recognize that confinement is a direct intrusion on one’s liberty and that “[t]o live one’s life free of physical restraint by the state is a fundamental right.”  In re Blodgett, 510 N.W.2d 910, 914 (Minn. 1994). 

Second, “[a]lthough freedom from physical restraint has always been at the core of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause, . . . that liberty interest is not absolute.”  In re Linehan, 594 N.W.2d 867, 872 (Minn. 1999) (quoting Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346, 356, 117 S. Ct. 2072, 2079 (1997)) (quotation marks omitted).  If the state demonstrates a compelling interest, a deprivation of an individual’s liberty interest may be justified.  Blodgett, 510 N.W.2d at 914. 

Third, the state has a compelling interest in keeping mentally ill individuals from harming themselves and others.  The Act requires that the least restrictive measures be taken to confine individuals who present a danger to themselves and others.  Minn. Stat.               § 253B.09, subd. 1; Brown, 640 N.W.2d at 924.  Due process principles set a high and exacting standard for confinement and we expect strict adherence to the language of the Act.  In re Robledo, 341 N.W.2d 278, 279 (Minn. 1983).  Yet, we also recognize that the Act balances the competing interests of public safety and the interests of individual patients.  Hennepin County v. Levine, 345 N.W.2d 217, 220 (Minn. 1984). 

When commitment is properly ordered, procedural errors will not prevent this court from affirming the judgment for commitment.  See In re Appeal of Leary, 272 Minn. 34, 40, 136 N.W.2d 552, 556 (1965) (holding that although petition for commitment was technically deficient, purpose of statute was served); In re Ringland, 357 N.W.2d 132, 133-34 (Minn. App. 1984) (holding that even if appellant’s attorney waived her probable cause hearing without her consent, order for commitment was unaffected because order was issued after a full hearing).  Under the Act, when a court dismisses criminal charges, the state only has a right to further detain a pre-commitment person within a treatment facility.[1]  Minn. Stat. § 253B.07, subds. 2b, 7. 

We also note that challenges to pre-commitment procedures rarely affect the validity of the final commitment judgment.  Such challenges do not affect the ultimate question of whether appellant met the statutory criteria for civil commitment as a mentally ill person.  See Robledo, 341 N.W.2d at 279 (holding that due process is violated when 78 hours transpire between the hold order and the preliminary hearing, when the Act calls for 72 hours, but that the challenge was moot when appellant did not contest the sufficiency of the evidence); Ringland, 357 N.W.2d at 133-34 (holding that even if waiver of a contested probable cause hearing by appellant’s counsel was ineffective because appellant did not consent, it did not affect the validity of the judgment for commitment because appellant did not contest the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the order, which was issued after full hearing on petition).

The essence of appellant’s position is that unless he can challenge his ultimate commitment because of an improper pre-commitment confinement, the state will not be accountable for, and he will not be protected against, the abuse inherent in such improper pre-commitment confinement.  In evaluating this position, we note the following facts:  appellant presented a danger to himself and others, and his release into the community was not advisable; the designated and most appropriate facility for appellant as a Hennepin County resident is HCMC; and when HCMC lacks space, the practice in Hennepin County is to hold pre-commitment persons at the criminal detention center.  There is no showing that neighboring counties have or do not have appropriate facilities, or that space was available in such facilities, or that the cost of transporting appellant and others to such facilities would be burdensome.  While pre-commitment confinement procedures do present a restraint on appellant’s liberty, this restraint was not as great as the ultimate judgment for civil commitment, which appellant does not contest.

We also note that although appellant’s attorney complained to the referee regarding appellant’s pre-commitment confinement in jail; appellant did not request a determination of the necessity of pre-commitment confinement in jail or bring a motion, writ of habeas corpus, or other proceeding to challenge his confinement during the pre-commitment period.  Such a challenge may have resolved the problem by leading to a finding of a necessity of jail confinement or use of a facility outside Hennepin County.  The district court’s recognition that the Act required appellant’s detention in a treatment facility and that HCMC lacked sufficient room to accommodate appellant indicates it was not oblivious to the problem. 

Because the pre-commitment confinement procedures could have been challenged at an earlier stage in these proceedings, absent a showing that these remedies were inadequate and that other, acceptable facilities were available, we decline to set aside appellant’s commitment.   


[1] Under the Act, “‘[t]reatment facility’ means a hospital, community mental health center, or other treatment provider qualified to provide care and treatment for persons who are mentally ill, mentally retarded, or chemically dependent.”  Minn. Stat. § 253.02, subd. 19.  The Act only allows for pre-commitment confinement in a jail when the court makes a specific finding of fact, which was not made in this case.  Minn. Stat. § 253B.045, subd. 1.