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Under 5150, the state has a right to hold this person for 72 hours. During that time, he has no right to talk to a lawyer. The purpose for his being there is because it was believed that he was a danger to himself and others, and he is being evaluated by psychiatrists.
In many cases, the patient is released before 72 hours and sent home with or without a plan for further outpatient treatment. If the staff agrees that he is a danger to himself or others, however, and further psychiatric treatment is needed for his condition, then he would be entitled to a lawyer and a hearing before the judge to get him released from custody. You can see the 5150 laws here.
If he doesn't have a lawyer by then and wants one, one will be appointed for him. But he may be in no position to ask for one. So it's best that even though it may not be 72 hours yet, you get a lawyer involved. At least he can put the facility on notice that the patient is represented by counsel, so that he can talk to his patient at the first opportunity and to safeguard his rights.
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