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Another legal remedy that does not result in the vulnerable adult being placed under guardianship or conservatorship is an action for injunctive relief, where the petitioner requests a court order requiring a party to do or refrain from doing a particular action that is harmful to the vulnerable adult. These legal actions may be brought by attorneys in the County Attorney’s Office’s Protective Services Unit, as part if their responsibility under the Vulnerable Adults Act.
If a finding is made of maltreatment of a vulnerable adult, the perpetrator of the maltreatment will be disqualified from employment working with vulnerable adults or children. The perpetrator could be liable for civil damages in a private lawsuit.
In a criminal proceeding, action can be taken by the State against a person charged with financial exploitation, criminal neglect, or abuse of a vulnerable adult. These matters would be handled in the Criminal Division of the County Attorney’s Office.
Regardless of whether the petition is filed by the County Attorney’s Office, a private attorney or a pro se party, the county Social Services department becomes involved, since the court is required to appoint a court visitor, usually a county social worker, to visit the proposed ward/conservatee and file a report and recommendation with the court.
You are required to go through the county. You can start the process by calling pre-petition screening at 763-324-1420. If the person is in the hospital and the person’s doctor believes that a civil commitment is needed, hospital staff will contact pre-petition screening. A team of mental health professionals will screen the case to determine if a commitment petition is appropriate, or if there are other less-restrictive alternatives that will meet the person’s treatment needs. If the pre-petition screening team believes that a commitment petition is appropriate, they will prepare a written report and submit it to the County Attorney’s Office, along with a doctor’s statement supporting the commitment. If the County Attorney’s Office determines that legal criteria are met for filing a petition, a petition will be filed, with the pre-petition screening report and examiner’s statement attached, and the matter will be set on for hearing. The County Attorney’s Office will represent the petitioner in the civil commitment proceeding. A court-appointed attorney will represent the patient.
For a mentally ill or developmentally disabled person, it must be demonstrated by recent behavior that the person’s mental illness or developmental disability poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others. The person must have recently caused or threatened to cause physical harm to self or others, or caused significant damage to substantial property, or demonstrated failure or inability to provide necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical care. Failure to take psychiatric medication or exhibition of the symptoms of mental illness or developmental delay is not enough alone to petition for court-ordered treatment without the showing of danger to self or others.
For chemical dependency:
For a chemically dependent person, it must be demonstrated by recent behavior that the person’s habitual and excessive use of alcohol, drugs, or other mind-altering substances causes the person to be incapable of self-management or management of personal affairs, and that it poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others. The person must have recently caused or threatened to cause physical harm to self or others, or evidenced recent serious health problems related to the chemical use, or demonstrated failure to provide necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical care. A pregnant woman can be committed if during her pregnancy she has engaged in habitual or excessive use, for a non-medical purpose, of any of the following controlled substances or their derivatives: cocaine, heroin, phencyclidine, methamphetamine or amphetamine.
For a sexually dangerous person, or sexual psychopathic personality:
Pre-petition screening is not required for these petitions. The respondents in these cases are often referred to the County Attorney’s Office for possible civil commitment by the Department of Corrections. Most often, but not always, the persons have been serving a prison sentence for a sexual misconduct crime. To be committed as a sexually dangerous person or a sexual psychopathic personality, it must be proven that the person has engaged in a course of (multiple incidences of) harmful sexual conduct in the past, and that it is highly likely that without court-ordered treatment, the person will engage in harmful sexual conduct in the future. If committed, the person is committed on an indeterminate basis to a secure, locked facility that specializes in treatment of sex offenders.
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Victims do not file charges; the county attorney does. Therefore, victims do not have the right to drop charges. It is the county attorney’s responsibility to citizens of the state, with information provided by police / investigators, to charge persons who have committed crimes. If a person recants / changes their story, they must notify the police department or Investigator with this new information. Victims may also speak with the Victim Witness Specialist about their feelings and/or wishes for the outcome of the case. The specialist can be reached by calling 763-324-5540.
The county attorney can request that a No Contact Order be issued as a condition of the defendant’s release. Also, in cases of domestic abuse, you can get help in obtaining an Order for Protection through Alexandra House, 763-576-9999. Visit their website for more information. Any violations of these orders should be reported to the police and the probation office immediately.
There are a number of ways to track defendants who may be in custody. You will the need the name of the defendant. A date of birth is also helpful.
There are several resources available for financial assistance. Your victim witness specialist can help you sort out which is best for you. Emergency funds may be available on a limited basis to help with emergencies not covered by insurance or other sources. The State of Minnesota also has funds available to assist victims of crime with medical, dental, psychological, or funeral expenses related to a crime. Call the specialist at 763-324-5540 for more information.
The County Attorney can request that a no contact order be issued as a condition of the defendant’s release. Also, in cases of domestic abuse, you can get help in obtaining an Order for Protection through Alexandra House. Any violations of these orders should be reported to the police and the probation office.