Five things to know about the Baker Act and why it didn't prevent car attack on New Tampa bike family

Published Jun. 26, 2018

Mikese Morse visited a Tampa police substation June 12 and predicted he would hurt someone if he wasn't detained, records show. He was taken into protective custody under Florida's Baker Act.

Then, on June 24, police say he intentionally ran over a family riding bicycles, killing Pedro Aguerreberry and injuring his two young sons.

His parents say he should not have been released. But the state's Baker Act has it limitations.

What is the Baker Act?

The Baker Act is a Florida law that allows people with mental illnesses to be held involuntarily for up to 72 hours in a mental health treatment facility if they meet certain criteria. The act can be initiated by judges, law enforcement officials, doctors or mental health professionals.

Why is it called the Baker Act?

The act is named for Maxine Baker, who served in Florida's House of Representatives from 1963 to 1972. Baker, known for her work on mental health issues, sponsored the bill that became the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971.

What criteria must be met for a person to be held involuntarily under the Baker Act?

The law specifies three criteria:

• There is reason to believe the person is mentally ill.

• Due to the mental illness, the person has refused a voluntary examination or is unable to determine whether such an examination is necessary.

• Without treatment, the person is likely to suffer from neglect or to harm himself or herself or someone else in the near future.

What happens after 72 hours?

A person can be released outright or referred to outpatient treatment within 72 hours of involuntary commitment to a Baker Act receiving facility. If the person is not discharged within 72 hours, the facility can ask for the person's consent to continue their commitment voluntarily, or an administrator can file a petition through the circuit court for involuntary placement.

What happens if a petition for involuntary placement is filed in court?

If a petition is filed in court, a hearing on involuntary placement must occur within five days. If the court finds that a person meets criteria for continued involuntary commitment, the person can be committed to a mental health facility for up to six months.

Morse spent a week at Gracepoint, a mental health facility, but was released June 19, his mother, Khadeeja Morse, said on Facebook.

"We PLEADED with them to keep him long enough for proper treatment," she wrote.

In a television interview, the parents said Gracepoint released their son before he had been stabilized.

Gracepoint has declined to discuss Morse, citing medical privacy laws.