What does 5150 mean?

The number 5150 is a police code used when calling for assistance because someone is going absolutely insane.

It applies when the offender is behaving in a crazy manner due to mental illness or substance abuse.

The offender will often be on a psychotic spree and is rarely aware of what he is doing, where he is, and have a warped perception of reality.

He or she is a danger to themselves, others or to property.

In this case, the person can be detained for 72 hours in a psychiatric ward, and rather than focus on punishment and law enforcement, they are surrounded by nurses, psychiatrists and doctors.


What's the origin of 5150?

The clause of “Involuntary Psychiatric Hold” is found in the California Welfare and Institutions Code, in Article 1, section “5150”.

All states have similar measures, but this particular number is specific for California.

Although the code mainly informs what measures to take when detaining the offender, it is used as police slang for an unstable person.

Spread & Usage

How did 5150 spread?

The number has been adopted as slang by the common folk as well, and can be used when referring to someone who is simply just a bit weird.

In 1986, the hard rock band Van Halen released an album with the name “5150”, in direct reference to the code.

External resources

  • Dictionary.com – 5150

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