Baker Act: What happens when someone is committed?

Image 1 of 5

After being found at her home a second time on April 22, the man accused of stalking Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was taken into custody under the Baker Act - commonly called being "Baker Acted" - and sent to get mental health treatment.

After a hearing to obtain a restraining order, Bondi said the facility from which her alleged stalker was released should have notified police before he was set free. But as many who have been through the system already know - the Baker Act gives these facilities limited permissions when it comes to holding patients and doesn't always require notification of their release.

The Baker Act, which is formally known as the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, gives judges, law enforcement, physicians and mental health professionals the authority to involuntary institutionalization and examine someone.

In the case of Bondi's accused stalker, William Wilkes was Baker Acted on April 22, but the events before and after that date caused Bondi concern and prompted her to speak out. 

RELATED: Police: Alleged Bondi stalker has history of erratic behavior

According to records, Wilkes first knocked on the window of Bondi's South Tampa home on March 9. Bondi encountered him again on April 22 and he was taken into custody under the Baker Act. 

Sometime between April 22 and April 27, Wilkes was released. He allegedly began calling and sending messages to Bondi online April 27. He was arrested five days later on May 1.

Bondi says more should have been done, when Wilkes was released, to ensure the safety of all parties involved.

"He was moved to a more secure facility called Gracepoint, which failed him, and failed me," Bondi said. "They said he was safe to be released, but clearly he was not. And they did not notify law enforcement, which they were supposed to do to protect me."

But the Baker Act dictates facilities like Gracepoint would only have to call law enforcement upon a person's release if they had been arrested. In Wilkes case, he was only taken into custody, not placed under arrest, until after he was released on April 27.

RELATED: AG Bondi faces alleged stalker in court

"I think the system does the best that it can, considering that the state of Florida ranks nearly last in the country in mental health funding," said Susan Morgan, a Gracepoint spokeswoman.

Attorney Maribeth Wetzel agrees. She has represented many who have been Baker Acted. She says mental health facilities have a very narrow window with which they can hold someone.

Facility employees use the answer to a single question to determine whether someone should be released: Are they a present danger to themselves or others? If the answer is "no," they let them go.

"Everybody is individual in that, so a lot of times a person may need to be stabilized and then they can be released if it is determined that they meet the criteria that they be released," said Wetzel.

Whether Wilkes tries to contact Bondi again is to be seen. He said in court, "If she doesn't want to see me, I don't want to see her."