What does 5150 mean?

5150 is a police code used to describe a situation where someone is behaving in an erratic or dangerous manner due to mental illness or substance abuse.

The code is used when calling for assistance because the person in question is going absolutely insane and poses a threat to themselves, others, or property. It’s important to note that this code is not used lightly and only applies in situations where the offender is on a psychotic spree and is rarely aware of their actions.

When someone is deemed to be a danger to themselves or others due to their mental state, they can be detained for up to 72 hours in a psychiatric ward instead of being sent to jail. This allows medical professionals to evaluate and treat the individual’s mental health issues.


What's the origin of 5150?

โ€œ5150โ€ comes from the California Welfare and Institutions Code, specifically Article 1, section 5150.

The code was created to provide guidance on how to handle individuals who are deemed a danger to themselves or others due to mental health issues. It allows for an involuntary psychiatric hold of up to 72 hours, during which time the individual can be evaluated and treated.

However, over time, the term “5150” has taken on a different meaning. It is now commonly used as police slang for an unstable person.

Spread & Usage

How did 5150 spread?

With the passage of time, โ€œ5150โ€ has spread beyond its original context and has become a part of popular culture. 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.

One reason for its widespread use could be attributed to popular media. In 1986, the hard rock band Van Halen released an album with the name โ€œ5150โ€, in direct reference to the code, while also being a reference to the home studio of Eddie Van Halen, also called โ€œ5150.โ€ The album went on to become a commercial success and brought the term into mainstream consciousness.

Since then, โ€œ5150โ€ has been referenced in various movies, TV shows, and songs. It has also been used by individuals on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram.

Despite its evolution into slang, it is important to remember that โ€œ5150โ€ is still a serious code used in emergency situations. It is not something to be taken lightly or used frivolously.

External resources

  • Dictionary.com โ€“ 5150

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