Involuntary hospitalization is a frequently discussed intervention physicians must sometimes execute. Because this intervention has serious implications for the citizens' civil liberties it is regulated by law. Every country's health system approaches this issue differently with regard to the relevant laws and the logistical processes by which involuntary hospitalization generally is enacted. This paper aims at analyzing the regulation and process of involuntary hospitalization in New York (United States) and Zurich (Switzerland). Comparing the respective historical, political, and economic backgrounds shows how notions of risk and liberty are culture-bound and consequently shape legislation and local practices. It is highly relevant to reconsider which criteria are required for involuntary hospitalization as this might shape the view of society on psychiatric patients and psychiatry itself. Furthermore, this article discusses the impact that training and experience of the person authorized to conduct and maintain an involuntary hospitalization has on the outcome.