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What is the Probable Cause Hearing Process?

When a patient is hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital against his or her will, he or she is placed on a 72 hour hold (WIC 5150). At the end of the 72 hours or any time during the 72 hours, the doctor may decide to discharge the patient, have the patient sign into the hospital as a voluntary patient, or place the patient on a 14 day hold (WIC 5250). The doctor may place the patient on a 14 day hold if he or she feels the patient is a danger to self, danger to others, or gravely disabled (unable to provide food, clothing or shelter) due to a mental disorder. At the end of the 14 day hold, the doctor may place the patient on an additional 30 day hold (WIC 5270.15) if the doctor feels the patient remains gravely disabled and requires further treatment.


  • Important
  • When the patient is placed on a 14 day hold or a 30 day hold, the hospital must notify the Superior Court, Mental Health Counselor's Office immediately by faxing a list of all patients on holds to (323) 223-3538.

Within the first four days of the 14 day hold or a 30 day hold, a Probable Cause Hearing is scheduled at the psychiatric facility. The Mental Health Hearing Coordinator will notify the hospital of the date and time of the hearing. The hospital will be notified the afternoon before the scheduled hearing date.

There are over 51 designated psychiatric treatment facilities in Los Angeles County scheduling over 2800 hearings per month.


  • Important
  • It is extremely important that the hospital staff notify the Court when a patient, who has not yet had a hearing, signs voluntary or is discharged.

Attempts are made to accommodate doctor's hours. If a hearing is scheduled, a professional staff member must present on behalf of the hospital.

At the probable cause hearing, present are a Patients' Rights Advocate who is there to help the patient, the doctor or a hospital staff person to present information on behalf of the facility, and the Mental Health Hearing Referee. The Court, when needed, also provides an interpreter for the patient.


  • Important
  • It is extremely important to notify the Court of the need for an interpreter and the specific language needed.

LPS hearings are non-public and confidential. If the patient does not wish family present, the family will not be admitted to the hearing. If the patient wishes to have a family member present, the person may be admitted to the hearing as an observer. If the family member wished to present information supporting the hospitalization they are encouraged to give the information to the hospital presenter and let the presenter provide the information at the hearing. This process helps alleviate any potential hostility or alienation which might develop because of the patient wishing to be released from hospitalization and the family member feeling they should remain in the hospital for further treatment. If the family member has information supporting the release of the patient from the hospital, they should give this information to the Patients' Rights Advocate who will present the information at the hearing. The offer by a family member or other person to provide food, clothing or shelter to a patient is required to be in writing by WIC 5250(d)(2). This requirement also may be satisfied by the Patients’ Rights Advocate talking to the family member or other person and obtaining an Affidavit from that person over the telephone to present at the hearing.

The probable cause hearings are administrative hearings. This means that they are much less formal than judicial hearings and formal legal rules, such as the rules of evidence (i.e., hearsay information) do not apply. The purpose of the hearing is to gather as much information as possible so the hearing referee can decide whether probable cause exists to believe that the person is a danger to self, danger to others, and/or gravely disabled.

It is the responsibility of the hospital presenter to explain to the hearing referee: (1) the events and the patient's behavior leading up to the patient's hospitalization; (2) the patient's behavior during hospitalization which illustrates his or her mental disorder and his or her dangerousness or grave disability; (3) previous psychiatric history; (4) living arrangements before hospitalization and plans after discharge; (5) the patient’s diagnosis; and (6) the medications currently prescribed and whether the patient is taking these medications.

It is the responsibility of the Patients' Rights Advocate to present the patient's point of view. It is the job of the advocate to attempt to gain the patient's release from the hospital if the patient desires release, even if the release may not be in the patient's best interest. This is the advocate's job no matter what they feel personally.

If the Mental Health Hearing Referee determines that there is probable cause for the patient to remain in the hospital based upon one or more of the certification criteria, he or she will inform the patient of this decision and the reasons for it. The referee will attempt to inform the patient in a way that the patient will understand. The referee will also indicate that the patient has other legal options open to him or her, which the advocate will then explain. If the patient desires to file a Writ of Habeas Corpus, the hearing referee will prepare the Writ for the patient’s signature, serve a copy of the Writ on the facility, and file it with the Court.

If the hearing referee determines that there is no probable cause to believe the patient meets one or more of the certification criteria, he or she will inform the patient and hospital representative of this decision and will explain the reason for it. If the hospital and the patient agree, the hospital then may accept the patient as a voluntary patient. If not, the patient must be discharged from the hospital.

The Presenting Information at the Probable Cause Hearing for Facility Representatives form may be used by hospital staff.


For the Los Angeles Superior Court local form listed above, go to the Mental Health Forms.
What are the different hearings held under the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act
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