What Does 5150 Mean? – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to describe someone as a little crazy? You could use the police code “5150” to let other people know to stay away from them. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The police code “5150” comes from California State penal code 50151, describing a mentally ill person placing themselves or other people in danger.

Civilians use the code to describe someone behaving in a crazy manner. If someone is 5150, they are acting strangely and erratically, and they might be angry or prone to committing acts of violence.

Example Usage

“Officer in distress, we have a possible 5150 on Lexington Avenue. White male, 5’11,” acting erratically and threatening other people.”

“That guy is a genuine 5150. He’s proper crazy, and someone needs to commit him to an institution for his safety and that of others.”

“If you hear the cops reporting a 5150, it means there’s a crazy person around, and you should watch out for people acting in a threatening manner.”

“My brother got committed last night on a 5150. The cops found him at the bar, drunk and on drugs. HE started brawling with the cops, and that’s when they arrested him.”

“How can you arrest my mother on a 5150. She’s not crazy. She was just asking why the cops wouldn’t go into the school when there’s an active shooter.”

“A 5150 is the last thing you want the cops to charge you with when they catch you. They’ll have you committed, and you’ll never get out.”

“I’m pretty sure that counts for a 5150, right? That dude is acting crazy and talking to himself. I hope he doesn’t hurt anyone.”


The code “5150” originates from the California Welfare and Institutions Code, specifically from Article 1, Section 5150. The law was signed into power in 1967.

Section 5150 code states people displaying signs of mental illness and present danger to others or themselves, or gravely disabled by mental illness, can be detained for up to 72-hours for psychiatric evaluation in a facility run by registered nurses, peace officers, doctors, or appropriate health professionals.

Many states have similar legislation. However, California is the only state that uses the 5150 code to describe people in this condition.

The phrase became popular on social media along with other police codes like “187.” People use it online to describe someone acting crazy in the chat or on video. Police officers will also use the 5150 code in personal discussions to describe people appearing to behave erratically.

Phrases Similar to 5150

  • Loco.
  • Crazy.
  • Mentally unfit.

Phrases Opposite to 5150

  • Mentally stable.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • 5150.

Ways People May Say 5150 Incorrectly

Some people may call the police and issue them with a 5150 code to let them know they have a problem with an angry person and they should send a squad car to the premises.

However, the police will need to confirm the code with you, so it’s better not to use it and just describe the situation instead. Only officers of the law use the code, not civilians.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase 5150

You can use the code “5150” when describing a crazy person who needs to be committed to a psychiatric institution. The code refers to the involuntary commitment of people whose actions put other people at risk. If you’re telling someone they need a “5150,” you’re telling them you think they’re crazy and need help.

You can use the code in social and professional situations where people act erratically and appear like they have a mental health problem. If you’re working in a retail store and a client starts acting crazy, you could tell your partner to call the cops and tell them the code and the reason for the call. If your friend is acting crazy and out of character, you could say they are a 5150.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *