Muscogee Co. judge explains protective order, how to mentally commit a person

Muscogee Co. judge explains protective order, how to mentally commit a person

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - We're still learning more about the legal complications surrounding John 'Rusty' Houser and his family, who filed a court-issued protective order against him in 2008, claiming he was a danger to himself and the family.

They were so worried that reports show his wife removed his guns from their home and filed a protective order against him.

A protective order, also referred to as a restraining order, is a public, legal document for victims to obtain protection from persons abusing, harassing, or stalking them.

It also can prohibit contact between parties and may remove or restrict someone from a certain place or residence. Under Georgia Law, you do not need an attorney to file a protective order and there are no fees involved.

This type of document was filed by the family of Houser in a Superior Court.

A probate judge in Carroll County, Ga. signed a private order allowing sheriff's deputies to detain Houser and take him, even if it's against his will, to a hospital for a mental evaluation only, which has caused some confusion about if Houser was ever actually committed because of his erratic actions.

"The actual order to apprehend was not ever actually filed as a public record. The fact that the judge in Carrol County signed an order to apprehend was made public by a filing in the superior court. The lawyer representing family members in a family violence protective action in superior court alleged the judge of Carroll County had signed an involuntary treatment order when in fact it was clarified she signed an order to apprehend," said Marc D'Antonio, Muscogee County Probate Court Judge.

Carroll County's judge could not legally have Houser "involuntarily committed" but could only order he be detained and evaluated. That judge would not have jurisdiction over Muscogee County where documents showed he was admitted at West Central Hospital. It must first be recommended from the mental facility and then a court proceeding would take place.

Another call was placed to the Carroll County Judge who signed the affidavit to detain Houser, but as of Wednesday afternoon our calls have not been returned.

As reported, a Carroll County probate judge says she can not legally commit a person into a mental facility. She can only sign an order to apprehend someone to be taken to a mental center for evaluation.

D'Antonio says there is a process to follow for someone to be placed into a mental facility.

First, the order to apprehend which two individuals have observed the behaviors of the person in the last 48 hours is signed by a judge, ordering that person for an evaluation.

Once in the care of a treatment facility, a doctor, or psychiatrist decides if a person is in need of involuntary treatment. If so, a petition is filed by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities for a court hearing.

"A trial would be held in court where we would hear evidence from both sides. Both sides will get to tell their story. At that point a judge makes a decision as to if someone is in need of involuntary, at that point  a adjudication would go to the GBI and on to the FBI," said D'Antonio.

D'Antonio says a family members concerned about their loved ones can call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line if they are trying to get help for someone with mental issues, drugs and alcohol. The number is 1-800-715-4225.

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