Involuntary commitment hearings have been conducted utilizing videoconferencing technology for several years. There is limited information available in the published psychiatric literature pertaining to the use of this technology for commitment proceedings. The University of North Carolina Hospitals adopted a remote videoconferencing (tele-hearing) format for its civil commitment proceedings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this provided us with the opportunity to investigate the use of such an arrangement. In this article, we review the use of videoconferencing for commitment hearings. We also review select case law related to the utilization of this technology for commitment hearings, which reveals that the courts have not been in full agreement about the legality of a virtual commitment tele-hearing format. Given that the general use of virtual platforms has expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic and many individuals and organizations are gaining confidence in operating this technology, more institutions may decide to shift to a virtual commitment scheme or make a commitment tele-hearing format permanent after the pandemic.
Keywords: involuntary commitment; tele-court; tele-hearing; therapeutic alliance; virtual testimony.
© 2021 American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.