What Rights Do the New York Mental Hygiene Law Afford Its Citizens?

The majority of New York citizens who are admitted to a New York State psychiatric center are done so in accordance to the New York Mental Hygiene Law. If this ever happens to you or someone you know, it’s important to know the rights the Mental Hygiene Law affords New York citizens.

Basic Rights and Laws

New York Mental Hygiene Law affords you some rights that can’t be limited for any reason and others that can be limited by law for medical reasons. However, if you have been admitted under the New York Criminal Procedure Law or Correction Law, your rights may have different standards and conditions.

Civil Rights

Regardless of the fact that you’re in a psychiatric center, you’re still a New York and American citizen with civil rights. You may register to vote and vote in any elections, have the right to civil service ranking and appointment as well as rights related to try to obtain a license, permit, or any other privilege provided by civil law. Your civil rights also protect you from being abused and mistreated by any hospital staff or other patients. If you think your civil rights are being violated in any way, be sure to seek help and report it immediately.

Personal Rights

All patients in New York State psychiatric centers have a variety of personal rights as long as they aren’t limited by a provision of another law. These basic, personal rights promise quality of living, cleanliness, safety, freedom of religion, and more.

Mental Hygiene Law: Admissions

Upon admission, you’ll receive a paper with your admission update and information about your rights to seek representation and contact the New York Mental Hygiene Legal Service to assist you.

Three Types of Admissions:

1. Informal admission means the person has requested to be admitted and treated. They enter a facility without applying formally or on paper and may discharge whenever they want.

2. Voluntary admission is when someone at least 16-years-old, but under 18-years-old, fills out an application. His or her mother, father, or other legal guardian may be able to submit the application for the individual. This type of patient can submit a request in writing to be discharged anytime, as can the parent or guardian that originally submitted the patient’s application.

3. Involuntary admission is more complicated. Here are the three ways it can happen:

a. Medical certification. This requires the examination and unanimous opinion of two physicians that the patient requires involuntary help as an inpatient at a psychiatric treatment center. For complete certification, documents must include: The certification from two physicians and an application completed by someone close to the patient or a government official.

If you’re involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric facility by certification, you can be kept for as long as 60 days. After that, the director of the center may apply to keep you admitted. At this time, you will receive updates and have the opportunity to take the issue to court. You can object and obtain legal representation from a New York attorney.

b. Certification by community services director or designated physician. This particular certificate says an individual is suffering from a mental illness severe enough to pose a risk to themselves and others, signaling the urgent need for inpatient care and treatment.

Within 72 hours, a psychiatrist will examine you and conclude if you were correctly admitted. Dependent upon the examination, you could be required to stay for as long as 60 days before re-evaluation.

c. Emergency admission on basis of dangerous mental illness. Emergency admission occurs when concern rises that an individual is becoming dangerous and requires examination and admittance as soon as possible.

In this case, a staff psychiatrist will examine you in the first 48 hours to see if your symptoms match the criteria. If so, you could be held as many as 15 days. To be held for longer than that, you’d have to match the criteria for medically certifiable involuntary admission.

Criminal Procedure Law and Correction Law: Admissions

Citizens can be admitted to psychiatric centers under the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) and Correction Law:

Correction Law allows for incarcerated individuals to be admitted for treatment. Under the Mental Hygiene Law. This is equal to an involuntary form of admission, with the exception of guards and jail officials.

Criminal Procedure Law allows a criminal defendant who isn’t capable of comprehending litigation details or can’t help with his defense to be committed to a psychiatric center under one of numerous court orders. A judge can continuously extend orders to keep the defendant in the hospital and under psychiatric care. A defendant can be kept on one of these court orders for a maximum of two-thirds of the longest possible sentence that could have resulted from a conviction. Upon the expiration of one order, it’s required to convert the patient to a Mental Hygiene Law admission status.


If you’re legally incapacitated during your time as a patient at a New York psychiatric facility, a judge can decide if you need a guardian, choose who to appoint, and determine what their rights and powers will be. During the process, you retain the right to representation by the Mental Hygiene Legal Service or another New York Attorney.


Any patient admitted under the Mental Hygiene Law will be discharged after the individual’s treatment team or a judge has decided that they aren’t in need of inpatient care and treatment anymore.

Conditional Release

A person may be released conditionally rather than discharged, if he or she has clinical needs that require supervised placement. If a patient is to be retained for 30 days and 10 days pass, a judge could choose to release the patient conditionally for the remaining 20 days. If a staff physician determines the patient might need involuntary rehospitalization, they can be recommitted and reevaluated for up 72 hours in accordance with the procedures for involuntary admission under the Mental Hygiene Law and admitted or released.

If you have questions regarding the Mental Hygiene Law in New York, contact us.The attorneys at Gordon & Gordon are experienced with handling and navigating the complexities of these types of cases.