Some families must confront the difficult situation of convincing a loved one that they need addiction treatment. While interventions may lead a person with an addiction to seek treatment voluntarily, sometimes interventions are not enough. Addiction can dramatically impair a person’s judgment making it difficult for them to realize when substance use is a danger to themselves or others. Unfortunately, this impairment is why many people who need professional rehabilitation never miss out on it. To reduce the number of people missing out on treatment, many states put laws in place that allow for the involuntary commitment of individuals with substance use disorders. In Florida, this law is known as the Marchman Act.

What Is the Marchman Act?

The Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993, known as the Marchman Act, is a commitment statute created to help people who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. By submitting a formal petition to a county court in good faith, concerned friends or family members can legally compel their loved one to receive the treatment that they need. Once a petition is submitted, the process includes a formal assessment of the individual as well as treatment for their substance use disorder if deemed medically necessary. The involuntary treatment period can last up to 60 days, with a possible 90-day extension if necessary.

How the Marchman Act Works

Initiating the Marchman Act is simple. The process begins when a family member, friend or acquaintance fills out a petition for involuntary assessment in the county court of the individual’s location. This petition must be filled out in good faith, meaning that the person who submits the petition genuinely believes that the impaired individual needs professional treatment and cannot seek it on their own.

Basic Criteria for Marchman Act

For a Marchman Act petition to be accepted, some basic conditions must be met:

  • The petitioner must have a reason to believe that the individual does not have self-control regarding their substance use
  • The petitioner must believe that the individual will inflict harm on themselves or others if they don’t receive professional treatment
  • There must be clear evidence that the individual cannot make rational decisions in regards to professional treatment

How Can I Apply the Marchman Act to a Loved One?

There are a few steps to follow to apply the Marchman Act to a loved one in Florida. The required petition comes in the form of a packet, which can be obtained from the local county court clerk in the county where the individual resides. This packet requires the petitioner to provide detailed observations of the severity of symptoms exhibited by the person in question.

Once the packet is filled out, the clerk of the court presents it to the magistrate in charge of signing orders for involuntary assessment and treatment. If the packet meets the requirements, the magistrate signs the Marchman Act order and the process of initiating assessment or treatment periods begins. This order may be sent to and enforced by the county sheriff, if necessary.

Currently, there are three primary options available for filing the Marchman Act in Florida:

  1. File it independently. This method is the least expensive option available. However, it also places the responsibility of making sure all the details of a case are in order solely in the petitioner’s hands. If any of the information in the petition is inaccurate, or the petition itself is filed improperly, it can take an extended amount of time to file the order. This delay slows down the process and makes it harder to get treatment for the person who needs it.
  2. Hire a lawyer. An experienced attorney can thoroughly prepare a petitioner for the legal proceeding involved with the Marchman Act and make sure all paperwork is filed correctly. However, this is the most expensive method of filing the Marchman Act.
  3. Consult an intervention counselor. While intervention counselors typically require a fee, they can help petitioners through nearly every stage of the filing process. Intervention counselors can create, implement and monitor the individual’s treatment plan, ensuring that it is individualized to best promote long-term recovery.

If you are considering using the Marchman Act to help someone you know enter drug or alcohol rehab, it’s important that you find a treatment center that can set them up for success. The Recovery Village provides a continuum of high quality, comprehensive care. Reach out to a representative today for more information and take the first step toward your loved one’s healing.

State of Florida Department of Children and Families Substance Abuse Program. “Marchman Act User Reference Guide 2003.” 2003. Accessed April 15, 2019.

The Florida Legislature. “394.467 Involuntary Inpatient Placement.” Accessed April 19, 2019. 

What Is the Marchman Act?
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