Explainer

07.24.13

Amanda Bynes Placed Under 5150 Hold. But What Is It?

The star was put under the same involuntary hold as Britney Spears and Paris Jackson. Kevin Fallon explains what that means.

Is Amanda Bynes a danger to herself?

Between the wigs, the plastic surgeries, the alarming series of car accidents, the reports of drug use, and the relentless insistence that 75 percent of the population is “ugly,” many people have thought so for a while. But on Monday, California sheriff’s deputies made the decision that Bynes actually was a danger to herself when they placed her under an involuntary psychiatric hold, called a 5150, after she allegedly started a fire in the driveway of a stranger’s home. In conversations with police, the former actress reportedly gave answers so bizarre that the officials ruled she met the criteria for the 5150 hold.

But what exactly does that mean?

Section 5150 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code states that any California peace officer can insist on the confinement of a person who is exhibiting “probable cause” to make him or her believe that the behavior called to their attention is the “result of a mental disorder, a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled.” Each state has their own version of the hold, though California’s 5150 provision allows the state to take a person in no matter where his or her primary residence is.

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Amanda Bynes has lived a long and tragic odyssey, from Nickelodeon starlet to media sideshow.

The executive director of the Mental Health Association of California, Rusty Selix, tells MTV News that if police find someone setting fires in a driveway, as Bynes allegedly was, “it is not a problem to make that determination” that they require a 5150 hold. Typically, he says, the maximum hold is 72 hours. If it’s determined that the reason for the hold is a result of mental illness, a second order can be made to medicate the patient in order to stabilize them to a level where they no longer are a danger. It's not clear whether this is the case with Bynes. (Bynes was unavailable for comment.)

When the 5150 hold is over, a number of things can happen—and it’s up to Bynes to choose which. She can either willingly enter a structured treatment program—either 24-hour care or outpatient—refuse a program and face criminal charges (and typically the ultimatum from a judge to either go to jail or enter a program), or, in some cases, no charges are filed and the patient is free … at their own risk of a relapse.

If “5150 hold” was a phrase that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same thing Britney Spears was put under in 2008. And Mischa Barton in 2009. And Paris Jackson in 2013. In fact, a host of celebrities have been put under the hold in recent years. Here’s how their circumstances compare with Bynes’s.

Britney Spears
Spears was taken Cedar-Sinai Hospital and placed under an involuntary hold in 2008 after she reportedly locked herself in a room and refused to hand over one of her children during a custody exchange with ex-husband Kevin Federline. (You may remember the unfortunate paparazzi photos of a beleaguered-looking Spears being loaded into an ambulance.) The hold eventually led to Spears’s being placed under the conservatorship of her father, who was put in control of all her affairs, from handling her money to decisions about food, clothing, and her general well-being. Back in May, it was reported that Bynes’s parents were seeking conservatorship, which they’re reportedly going after again.

Mischa Barton
In 2009, The O.C. star was placed under a 5150 hold after police responded to what was at the time called “a medical issue.” Though rampant reports circulated that the 911 call that led to the hold was the result of a suicide attempt, Barton later told Tatler that she had a meltdown and lashed out at nursing staff who were injecting her with painkillers meant to treat an infection she got after she had her wisdom teeth removed.

Paris Jackson
Michael Jackson’s daughter was placed under the hold just last month after an apparent suicide attempt. Jackson reportedly slashed her wrists and overdosed on pills in the home she shared with her grandmother and two brothers, allegedly because she was overwhelmed by the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by her grandmother against the entertainment group that planned the tour her father was rehearsing at the time of his death. Earlier this month, Jackson was reportedly taken to a youth residential treatment center.

Nick Stahl
In June, the Terminator 3 actor, who has a history of battling alcohol and substance-abuse issues, was placed on a 5150 hold after being taken to a Los Angeles hospital. When TMZ caught up with Stahl shortly after his release from the hold, he said “stress” and “life problems” led to the hold, and that “it was helpful.”

Brooke Mueller
Just days before child protective services was due to remove her twins from her home, Charlie Sheen’s ex-wife Brooke Mueller was placed under a 5150 hold. According to Radar, Muller “had been using drugs for days and was not in her right mind.” Her sons were actually placed under the care of another one of Sheen’s exes, Denise Richards, following Mueller's admittance to the hospital.

David Hasselhoff
Back in 2009, the Baywatch star taken to Cedar-Sinai Hospital and placed under an involuntary hold after a days-long booze bender resulted in a seizure. As, at that point, the actor had been hospitalized at least five times for alcohol poisoning, officials deemed him a danger to himself and placed him under a hold.