The slang term “green warrant” is used in some regions of the United States to refer to a mental health warrant, a warrant that compels someone to be evaluated by a mental health professional. Such warrants are issued when there is a belief that someone could be in danger due to a mental health problem, or when there is a concern that the person could pose a risk to others. The details of a green warrant vary, depending on the region where it is issued and the terms spelled out by the person who writes the warrant.
In some regions, a green warrant must be filled out and authorized by a mental health professional. In other cases, a judge can issue a mental health warrant on the grounds of information provided by friends, family, law enforcement, and mental health providers. In both cases, the situation is evaluated carefully, because a warrant results in a restriction of liberties. If someone is not in danger or does not pose a threat, a green warrant cannot be issued because there are no grounds.
A typical green warrant will order someone to be taken to a mental health facility for evaluation. It can also authorize a temporary hold, typically of up to 72 hours, for observation and treatment. If additional treatment is needed after this point, the patient may agree to voluntary commitment, or paperwork can be filed to request an involuntary commitment on the grounds that the patient cannot be safely released. The warrant authorizes law enforcement representatives to collect the subject of the warrant and deliver the subject to a hospital or mental health facility.
Documentation is usually needed for a green warrant. Under the law, people cannot be compelled to receive treatment for mental health conditions unless there is a clear and present risk. Documentation in the form of conversations with the person, evidence from the person's home, and a history of mental health issues may be needed before such a warrant will be authorized.
This type of specialized warrant can result in problems for law enforcement. Many law enforcement officers do not have adequate training in working with people who have mental illnesses, and sometimes confrontations between law enforcement and mental health patients turn deadly. People who are severely mentally ill may not understand what is happening or may view the police officers as an aggressive threat. This could cause them to act out, and police officers may use excessive force in response as a result of fear and confusion.