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Historical dangerousness is sufficient to extend ch. 51 commitment order

Waukesha County v. Michael J.S., 2013AP1983-FT, District 2, 1/29/14; court of appeals decision (1-judge; ineligible for publication); case activity

Michael has been on a court-ordered commitment for thirty-five years, except for a two-year period that ended in 1996, when Michael was committed under § 51.20 after an incident in which he rode his bicycle erratically on a highway and had a confrontation with police. Since 1996, Michael’s commitment order has been extended numerous times, he has been under continuous medication, but he has exhibited no more dangerous behavior. (¶2). Michael argued the evidence at the latest recommitment hearing was insufficient to prove under § 51.20(1)(am) that it is substantially probable he will be dangerous to himself or others if treatment is withdrawn because he has not engaged in any dangerous behavior in recent years, even though he has on occasion been four or five days late for his scheduled medication injections. (¶7). The court of appeals rejects the argument:

¶8        As the trial court stated, dangerousness can be determined by reference to past history. The issue of dangerousness is often a historical one. Michael implies that since he has not exhibited any dangerous behavior during the recent short lapses in his treatment regime, there is insufficient evidence of dangerousness. However, Michael provides the court with no evidence, expert or otherwise, that a five or six-day delay in taking medication is proof that he can function without medication. Instead, Michael’s pre-1996 relapse when he was off his medication for several months and Dr. Centena’s testimony are both probative of a finding that he will revert to a dangerous demeanor if off of his medication for an extended period of time. …

¶9        Michael also claims that Dr. Centena’s testimony must be discounted because the doctor has not met with him for years. But it is Michael who has refused to meet with Dr. Centena for years. If a recent examination were a necessary precedent to a doctor giving his or her opinion in a forcible medication case, then a refusal to meet with the doctor would automatically entitle petitioners to freedom from having to take medication. This cannot be the law. Michael cannot turn his refusal to meet with Dr. Centena into evidence of his lack of dangerousness.

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