The 51-50 Police Code: A Deep Dive Guide

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on July 8, 2023
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The term ’51-50′ may sound cryptic to those unfamiliar with police codes, but for law enforcement and mental health professionals, it is an essential tool in their work.

Stemming from section 5150 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code, ’51-50′ is a police code used to denote situations involving individuals perceived as a danger to themselves or others due to a mental health disorder.

The Online Mental Health Reviews team is qualified to write about the 51-50 police code because of our extensive mental health knowledge and commitment to thorough research and understanding of mental health laws and procedures.

This article will discuss the 51-50 police code, also known as a 5150, in more detail. Let’s dive in.

Unveiling the ’51-50′ Police Code

In practical terms, when law enforcement officers encounter a person who appears to be mentally unstable and is potentially harmful to themselves or others, they can invoke the ’51-50′ code. This allows police officers to detain the individual involuntarily for up to 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation and possible treatment, all aimed at ensuring the safety of the individual and those around them.

The Role of Law Enforcement and Mental Health Professionals

While the decision to implement a ’51-50′ falls on law enforcement officers, they cannot navigate these complex situations alone. They work closely with mental health professionals who conduct the evaluations and provide patients with the necessary treatment. This collaboration ensures that the individual gets the best care while protecting public safety.

Rights of Individuals under ’51-50′

Despite the involuntary nature of the ’51-50′ hold, it’s important to note that individuals still retain certain rights. They have the right to be informed about their detention and its reasons, the right to legal counsel, and the right to refuse medication. Upon conclusion of the hold, further commitment would require a court order.

Tracing the Origins and Evolution of ’51-50′

The ’51-50′ code originated in California as part of the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act of 1967, which sought to end the inappropriate and indefinite institutionalization of people with mental health disorders.

Over time, the code has become a crucial component of mental health crisis response, not just in California but in many other states that have adopted similar legislation (see more related info below).

What You Need to Know About 5150 and 5585 Codes

The 5150 and 5585 codes are sections of the California Welfare and Institutions Code, which allow for involuntary and intensive psychiatric treatment and hospitalization.

  • The 5150 code is used when an adult is deemed a danger to themselves or others due to mental health issues. A law enforcement officer, clinician, hospital, or authorized officer can apply this code, leading to a 72-hour hold in a psychiatric facility for evaluation and treatment.
  • On the other hand, the 5585 code is essentially the equivalent of a 5150, but it applies specifically to minors. Under this code, a minor believed to be a danger to themselves or others due to a mental health crisis can also be put on a 72-hour hold.

In both cases, these codes are designed to protect individuals who may be unable to recognize their need for treatment while also ensuring the safety of others.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Application: The 5150 and 5585 codes can only be applied by certain authorized individuals, such as law enforcement officers or clinicians, who have received specific training to make these assessments.
  2. Evaluation: Once the code is applied, the individual is taken to a designated facility for a psychiatric evaluation. This must occur within the 72-hour hold period.
  3. Treatment: If necessary, immediate treatment can begin during the hold period. The goal is to stabilize the individual and ensure their safety and the safety of others.
  4. Rights: Despite being held involuntarily, individuals still retain certain rights, including the right to refuse medication (unless it’s a life-threatening emergency) and the right to legal counsel.
  5. Post-Hold: After the 72-hour hold, further detention would require a court order and costs in addition to the 5150. Alternatively, the individual could agree to voluntary treatment.

For more detailed information, refer to the California Legislative Information and organizations like NAMI California.

This information is specific to California, and laws may vary in different regions. Always seek professional advice in matters related to mental health crises.

The 5150 and 5585 legal holds, part of California’s Welfare and Institutions Code, have a complex history. They were established to protect individuals experiencing severe mental health crises and those around them.

  • The 5150 hold allows for the involuntary confinement of an adult for up to 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others due to a mental health disorder.
  • The 5585 hold serves a similar purpose but applies specifically to minors.

These laws emerged from the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act of 1967, which aimed to end the indefinite institutionalization of people with mental health disorders without legal oversight and due process. The LPS Act introduced the concept of conservatorship, where a responsible person or agency is appointed to care for individuals who cannot care for themselves.

However, implementing these holds has been controversial over the years. Critics argue they can infringe on personal liberties, while others maintain they are necessary for public safety and welfare.

In recent years, efforts have been made to refine these laws to better balance individual rights with societal protection. For example, Laura’s Law, passed in California in 2002, allows for court-ordered, assisted outpatient treatment for people with severe mental illness, offering a less restrictive alternative to 5150 and 5585 holds.

Differences Between 5150 Hold and Acute Stabilization

A 5150 hold refers to a section of the California Welfare and Institutions Code allowing a person experiencing a mental health crisis to be involuntarily detained for a 72-hour psychiatric hospitalization. This is usually enacted when the individual is evaluated to pose a danger to themselves or others or if they’re gravely disabled due to their mental health condition.

On the other hand, acute stabilization is a more comprehensive mode of treatment. It’s geared towards stabilizing individuals who are in a state of severe mental distress. This might include crisis stabilization or acute inpatient psychiatric hospitalization and treatment in the community.

The main differences between a 5150 hold and acute stabilization are:

  1. Duration and Intensity: A 5150 hold lasts up to 72 hours and is often used in emergencies when immediate intervention is required. Acute stabilization, however, can last longer and involves a more thorough treatment plan.
  2. Voluntary vs Involuntary: A 5150 hold is involuntary, meaning the person has no choice. Acute stabilization can be either voluntary or involuntary.
  3. Level of Care: A person under a 5150 hold may not receive the comprehensive care they need. It’s primarily meant to prevent harm. Acute stabilization aims to provide intensive and comprehensive care, to return the individual to their usual level of functioning.
  4. Legal Aspects: A 5150 hold has legal implications, as it involves the state law taking control over an individual’s rights for a certain period. Acute stabilization, however, doesn’t necessarily involve such legal aspects unless it’s an involuntary admission.

5150 Hold California for Minors

A 5150 hold in California is an involuntary psychiatric hold that allows mental health professionals or law enforcement officers to detain a person for up to 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation.

This can be implemented when an individual, regardless of their age, is deemed a danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled due to their mental health condition.. However, minors do not pay for a 5150 themselves, usually.

When it comes to minors, this law is often referred to as a 5585 hold. Here are the key points to understand:

  1. Purpose: The primary purpose of this hold is to evaluate and stabilize a minor who is experiencing a severe mental health crisis and poses a risk to themselves or others.
  2. Duration: The hold lasts for a maximum of 72 hours, during which professionals evaluate the minor’s mental health. If further treatment is required, additional holds can be applied.
  3. Rights: Minors have the same legal rights as adults regarding involuntary holds. They are entitled to legal counsel and can challenge the hold in court.
  4. Parental Involvement: Parents or guardians are typically notified and involved. However, they cannot voluntarily terminate the hold without professional approval.

Remember, the 5150/5585 hold is a serious measure to protect those in a mental health crisis. It should only be used when necessary and followed with appropriate care and support.

How Do I Share Information About My Loved One?

Sharing information about a loved one, especially regarding health matters, requires careful consideration of privacy laws and respect for the individual’s boundaries. Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Understand HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) safeguards individuals’ health information. It allows the sharing of information directly related to the involvement of family members or friends identified by the patient in their care or payment for healthcare.
  2. Acquire Consent: If your loved one is capable, they can consent to share their health information. This consent can be verbal or written, depending on the healthcare provider’s requirements.
  3. Become a Personal Representative: If your loved one cannot consent, you may need to become their Representative. This usually involves a written request and might require legal paperwork such as a power of attorney.
  4. Adhere to the Minimum Necessary Rule: Only share the bare minimum of information necessary for the disclosure.
  5. Leverage Online Tools: Platforms like CaringBridge provide a secure way to share health updates about a loved one.

Additional Privacy Resources:

What is Law AB 1194?

According to, Law AB 1194, officially known as Assembly Bill 1194, is legislation passed in California that significantly changes the state’s conservatorship and guardianship laws. Governor Gavin Newsom signed this law, and took effect on January 1, 2022.

The key provisions of AB 1194 include:

  1. Appointment of Counsel: It mandates the appointment of counsel in critical conservatorship proceedings, such as petitions to establish or terminate a conservatorship.
  2. Guardian Compensation: It prohibits a guardian or conservator from being compensated by the estate for any costs or fees they incurred in unsuccessfully defending their actions.
  3. Investigation of Allegations: The law requires the bureau to investigate specified allegations against conservators or guardians and authorizes the bureau to impose a resolution order, acting as sanctions for violations of their duties
  4. Revocation of License: In case of grave violations, the bureau is authorized to revoke a professional fiduciary’s license.
  5. Preference for a Preferred Counsel: If a conservatee, proposed conservatee, or person alleged to lack legal capacity expresses a preference for a preferred counsel, AB 1194 provides for such an arrangement.

51-50 Police Code Conclusion

The ’51-50′ police code plays a pivotal role in situations where mental health intersects with law enforcement. Facilitating crisis intervention and providing immediate care to those who may pose a risk due to their mental state serves as a lifeline for some of our most vulnerable community members.

As we grapple with mental health issues in society, understanding tools like the ’51-50′ code is a step towards fostering empathy, promoting safety, and ensuring appropriate care for those in crisis. However, this process can be abused, so it’s important to educate yourself about the law and to what rights you’re entitled.

For further reading, check out resources about 5150 holds, the impact of a 5150, 5150 costs, visiting, public records, 5150 rules, after-release, get out of a hold, background check, self-commitment, who pays, minors, and 5150 codes.

Remember, if you need to reach a lawyer or expert for urgent questions, Just Answer’s $5 trial is a reasonable option. Our team has bought and reviewed Just Answer, and we believe this service could be helpful when navigating the complexities of the healthcare industry.

Our team welcomes your involvement in our discussions on 51/50s. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about 5150 records or if there’s a mental health software product you’d like Online Mental Health Reviews to investigate next.

If You Are In Crisis

Yes, it’s important to prioritize immediate safety in crises. If you’re dealing with an emergency in your life, especially one involving mental health or potential harm to yourself or others, seeking immediate help is crucial. Here are some resources:

  1. 911: If you’re in immediate danger or experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 911 immediately.
  2. 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: If you’re thinking about self-harm or suicide, call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. This service is available 24/7 and provides immediate support.
  3. SAMHSA National Helpline (800-662-HELP): The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a 24/7, 365-day-a-year helpline for those struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. This free, confidential service assists in finding treatment and information about these disorders. The number is 800-662-HELP (4357).

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