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In re D.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 1, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF D.B., Alleged to be Seriously Mentally Impaired, D.B., Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, John G. Linn, Judge.

         D.B. appeals from the district court's order finding him to be seriously mentally impaired.

          Trent A. Henkelvig of Henkelvig Law, Danville, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen Witte Kraemer, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         D.B. appeals an involuntary civil commitment order. He contends the State failed to prove he was "seriously mentally impaired."

         Iowa Code section 229.1(20) (2017) sets forth the following definition of "seriously mentally impaired":

(20) "Seriously mentally impaired" or "serious mental impairment" describes the condition of a person with mental illness and because of that illness lacks sufficient judgment to make responsible decisions with respect to the person's hospitalization or treatment, and who because of that illness meets any of the following criteria:
a. Is likely to physically injure the person's self or others if allowed to remain at liberty without treatment.
b. Is likely to inflict serious emotional injury on members of the person's family or others who lack reasonable opportunity to avoid contact with the person with mental illness if the person with mental illness is allowed to remain at liberty without treatment.
c. Is unable to satisfy the person's needs for nourishment, clothing, essential medical care, or shelter so that it is likely that the person will suffer physical injury, physical debilitation, or death.

Iowa Code § 229.1(20).[1] D.B. concedes he has "a long history of paranoid delusions" and a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He also concedes he "was not taking his medication as prescribed." He argues the State failed to prove a likelihood he would "physically injure" himself "or others if allowed to remain at liberty without treatment." In his view, "the record does not clearly" establish this dangerousness element.

         "The danger the person[s] pose[] to [themselves] or others must be evidenced by a 'recent overt act, attempt or threat.'" In re J.P.,574 N.W.2d 340, 344 (Iowa 1998) (quoting In re Mohr,383 N.W.2d 539, 542 (Iowa 1986)). "In the context of civil commitment . . . an 'overt act' connotes past aggressive behavior or threats by the respondent manifesting the probable commission of a dangerous act upon himself or ...


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