5150 Explained: Here’s What’s Happening to Amanda Bynes

Burning Question: What happens now for Amanda Bynes after this so-called "5150" hold? Can she be committed, and does the 5150 get her off the hook for her other pending legal hassles? — D.T., Vancouver

There's a big difference between a 5150 and getting thrown into an "American Horror Story"-style situation, and that difference is a judge.

To get put on a such a hold, Bynes must have demonstrated one of three conditions to law enforcement officers (according to, natch, Section 5150 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code): an immediate, acute danger to herself; an immediate, acute danger to others; or a serious inability to provide herself with food, clothing, and shelter.

Any one of those factors — and allegedly setting a fire in a driveway does seem to fit the bill — could have triggered authorities to hold Bynes for up to 72 hours in a Los Angeles-area hospital. There she remains under the observation of doctors (and has received a visit from her parents, who have so far not given any signal that they intend to attempt to place their troubled, Twitter-ranting daughter under a court conservatorship, à la Britney Spears's family following her psych hold back in 2008).

[Related: Amanda Bynes vs. the World — Everyone She's Been Feuding With]

But once those 72 hours are up, it's very difficult for anybody to hold Bynes, no matter how loopy she may seem. In fact, Bynes could still show signs of long-term danger to herself or the world at large ... and she can still walk away.

"As long as she doesn't seem immediately dangerous, she can sign herself out," psychiatrist David Reiss explains to me. "You can try to extend the stay into a 14-day hold, but that requires a hearing, and a judge needs to believe that the person is still a danger."

However, at the moment, that may be the only good news for Bynes.

Yep, she still has those two minor legal headaches to quash — her alleged bong-throwing antics in New York and a pending DUI charge on the opposite coast. And, according to defense attorney Andrew Flier it's no guarantee that her 5150 will make those courtroom dates any easier.

[Related: Where Have Amanda's Parents Been?]

In fact, Bynes's lawyers may do their best to sweep this new development under the rug and keep it out of public conversation, including courtroom talk.

"These cases she has are minor," Flier points out. "Why bring out this baggage about possible mental health issues if it's not likely that the client is going to go to jail anyway?

"These kinds of cases end quickly, but then the client's career and reputation are in shambles in the future."

So far, authorities have not criminally charged her for the alleged fire-setting, but criminal counts could still be coming once detectives wrap up their investigation.

[Related: Amanda Bynes Placed on Pscyh Hold Following Fire]

Ultimately, the 5150 hold may spur Bynes to be more cooperative with attorneys and authorities, or make prosecutors more open to working with Bynes's defense team to reach quicker, more constructive resolutions.

"If I were in the D.A.'s office, I would seek out Amanda's lawyer, and once I saw that she didn't have an attitude, I would do my best to work out these cases very simply," Flier tells me. "These are minor charges. A D.A. is thinking, 'I've got a death penalty case tomorrow.'"

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