The Marchman Act, more formally known as Florida’s Substance Abuse Impairment Act, is a Florida law that governs both voluntary and involuntary treatment for substance abuse disorders.
Passed in 1993, the law allows for emergency intervention for those struggling with addiction. While it is meant to help those who are in crisis situations, loved ones can use the Marchman Act to intervene earlier in the addiction process.
The Marchman Act gives family and loved ones the power to petition the courts, asking for a judge to commit their loved one to treatment. If the person refuses treatment, they may be held in contempt of court and will be ordered to go back to treatment or face jail time.
It may seem extreme to court-order your loved one to treatment, but for some families, it is the only option. Involuntary treatment should only be used as a last resort after all other forms of intervention fail.
How do you file the Marchman Act?
To file for the Marchman Act, you need to complete the Petition for Involuntary Assessment form. Then, use the court locator to find the circuit court in your county. You can file the form at the courthouse to get the process started.
A hearing must be set within 10 days and a plainclothes sheriff’s department officer will serve the patient with notice of the court date. The hearing will include relevant testimony, and based on this and the petition, the court will decide if it should enter an Order for Involuntary Assessment.
Can anyone file the Marchman Act in Florida?
Essentially, yes. The Marchman Act allows the following individuals to file a Petition for Involuntary Assessment:
- The person’s spouse
- The person’s legal guardian
- Any relative of the person
- The person’s doctor
- The director of an addiction treatment center or a licensed service provider
- Any three adults that know the person
If the person is a minor, only a parent, a legal guardian, a legal custodian, or a licensed service provider can file.
What do I need to include in my petition?
In the petition, you must include evidence that your loved one meets the requirements for the Marchman Act. Be sure to specify:
- Reasons why the person is impaired by their substance abuse
- How have lost the power to control their drug abuse
- How they are at risk of harming themselves or someone else
Marchman Act petition forms will ask for basic information about the individual. Not all of this info is required, but it will help law enforcement officers locate your loved one and serve them the petition. Be prepared to provide detailed information about them when you file the paperwork at the courthouse.
Do people get better after being “Marchman-Acted?”
The Marchman Act is meant to help loved ones get help for someone who clearly needs it but won’t seek it on their own. However, recovery isn’t something that can be forced on a person. While it is possible to push someone into addiction treatment, the long-term results of this care depend on the patient being open to therapy, internalizing what they learn, and applying it to their life.
For some, being Marchman-Acted will be the catalyst needed to live a healthier life, while others will fall back into their old behaviors because being forced to get treatment makes them feel victimized.
Often, the threat of a family member filing the Marchman Act is enough to motivate an addict to enter treatment. Sometimes people agree to treatment just to avoid the legal and personal hassle. Either way, the fact that they are getting help and sticking to a treatment plan is what’s most important.
What are the limitations of the Marchman Act?
The Marchman Act is an important law, but it is an imperfect one, with limitations that can leave some people who need help outside of its reach. Some critical limitations of the act include:
- Taking up to 10 days from filing to rehab
- The patient is given a public defender who works to have the case dismissed
- If you choose to hire a lawyer to represent your side in the hearing, this comes out of pocket
- You need to have a valid address for the patient so they can be served
- They maybe be court-ordered to attend outpatient treatment instead of residential rehab
- The order is only enforceable in the county where it was issued
- Treatment may be restricted to facilities in the county where the order was issued
As a result, an intervention outside of the courts is the better choice for many families. Take time to carefully examine the pros and cons of Marchman Acting your loved one. Forcing someone to go to treatment should always be a last resort after other interventions have failed.
Who chooses where they go to treatment?
The general magistrate who presides over the hearing will give direction on where the patient should be taken. Those petitioning the court can ask for a specific facility, but the judge has the option to send them somewhere else. In most cases, the patient will be taken to a public facility that has been licensed by the Department of Children and Families and is located within the same county as that which issued the order.
Marchman Act vs. Baker Act – Is there a difference?
Many people think that the Marchman Act and the Baker Act are the same law. However, there are critical differences between them relating to the reasons a person can be committed, how long they can be held, and what comes after this hold time expires.
- Reasons for Commitment: The Marchman Act is based on the harm the patient’s substance abuse poses to them or others. The Baker Act is based on the harm caused by the patient’s psychiatric illness. Since addiction does not always coincide with other mental health issues, the Baker Act does not apply in all cases.
- Involuntary Hold Time: The Marchman Act allows for an initial hold of up to 5 days. The Baker Act restricts the involuntary hold to a total of 72 hours.
- After Hold Time Expires: Those held under the Marchman Act can have their hold extended by a court order to as much as 60 days. With the Baker Act, there is no allowance for forcing someone into a long-term treatment program. The goal is to assess and stabilize the individual while keeping them safe.
Because of these differences, loved ones considering involuntary commitment for substance abuse should opt for the Marchman Act over the Baker Act in the majority of cases.
Does the Marchman Act only exist in Florida?
The Marchman Act is specifically a Florida law. However, many other states have similar laws on the books that allow for loved ones and other concerned parties to involuntarily commit someone to a substance abuse rehab program. For example, Kentucky and Ohio have Casey’s Law, which accomplishes the same thing as the Marchman act. Advocates in many other states are pushing for similar legislation to combat the growing addiction problem.
JourneyPure.com doctors follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, count records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and their own expertise with decades in the fields and their own personal recovery.
Florida Department of Children and Families: “Crisis Services – Marchman Act”
Florida Department of Children and Families: “Marchman Act User Reference Guide 2003”
State University Systems of Florida: “Fundamentals of the Marchman Act”
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