What Does 5150 Mean


5150 refers to the California Law Code for the temporary, involuntary psychiatric commitment of individuals who present a danger to themselves or others due to signs of mental illness. 

It has generally been applied to people considered threateningly unstable or “crazy.”

Where Did It Originate?

The California Welfare and Institutions Code, initially enacted in 1967, is where the number 5150 is found in Article 1, Section 5150. 

However, California State Law 5150 is unique to that state and is not found in most other states.

By extending beyond its initial meaning, it has acquired numerous colloquial interpretations. 

Similarly, it is a codeword indicating an emotionally unstable person that police officers occasionally use.

Applications of ‘5150’:

Similar to the phrase insane, 5150 is frequently used in a disparaging or demeaning manner when applied to people. 

It is sometimes pronounced “fifty-one-fifty,” is a noun, an adjective, or a verb. The verb 5150’d, usually expressed in the past tense, means to be confined against one’s will. 

It is possible to be 5150, a 5150, or to be 5150.

A History of the 5150:

5150 has become commonplace in popular culture as slang. In 1986, Van Halen released a song under the codename 5150. The band was strait-jawed and repressed in a promotional shot. 

A person with an internal complaint may be inevitably locked up for a 72-hour psychiatric hospitalization,” according to the 5150 law. 

This implies that if a person meets the norms of being a threat to others, a peril to themselves, or both, they may be locked against their will for over 72 hours while witnessing a solemn internal occasion or condition.

In the years that followed, little to no programs were established to offer the patients support following the closure of these awful facilities.

This resulted in a significant influx of people with mental impairments into the homeless community, which increased the stigma towards people with mental illnesses and led to a significant entrance of these individuals into our jail systems. 


The California Law Code 5150 governs the temporary, involuntary commitment of those who pose a risk to themselves or others due to symptoms of mental illness.

It has been used to describe those seen as “mad” or threateningly unstable.

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