Commitment Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Commitment, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Commitment?

The act of sending a person to jail for judicial review before he is proved guilty of commiting a crime and also sending an insane person to an asylum for treatment who can prove dangerous to the society

History and Meaning of Commitment

Commitment refers to the act of sending a person to jail or mental institution for legal or medical review. The process may occur before the person is proven guilty of a specific crime or after the diagnosis of a mental illness. In the United States, commitment procedures vary by state, but typically involve an individual or judge determining that the person poses a threat to him or herself or others.

The concept of commitment dates back to the Middle Ages, where institutions for the “insane” existed in many countries. The purpose was more of a custodial function than a medical one, and these “madhouses” were described as places of terror, neglect, and abuse. The treatment of the mentally ill has since evolved, and commitment is now viewed as a process to ensure both public safety and the protection of one’s civil liberties.

Examples of Commitment

  1. A person is arrested for assault and battery, and a judge orders that he be held in jail without bail until a hearing can be scheduled. This is known as pretrial commitment.

  2. An individual who has been diagnosed with a severe mental illness is placed in a locked psychiatric ward for their own protection based on the recommendations of a mental health professional.

  3. A person is deemed incompetent to stand trial due to a severe intellectual disability and is committed to a state hospital for mental health treatment.

Legal Terms Similar to Commitment

  • Involuntary commitment: A legal process whereby a person is ordered to receive treatment for a mental illness or substance abuse disorder against their will.

  • Civil commitment: The process by which an individual is confined to a mental health institution without being accused or convicted of a crime.

  • Insanity defense: A legal defense whereby the defendant claims that they were not criminally responsible for their actions due to a mental illness or defect.