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Marchman Act Overview
The Marchman Act is just a name for a Florida Statute created to help individuals who: (1) have lost the power of self-control over their substance abuse; (2) do not appreciate their own need for help and cannot make rational decisions regarding their care as a result of their substance abuse; (3) have become a danger to themselves or others.
Given the right circumstances, the Marchman Act can be an effective tool to compel an addict or alcoholic to engage in treatment when they refuse to do so voluntarily.
Under the Florida Marchman Act, a civil court can issue an order that requires an impaired individual to comply with a drug and alcohol, assessment and treatment. Failure to comply with such a civil court order may result in legal consequences.
The Basic Process
A blood relative, a spouse or three concerned unrelated people may file a petition for assessment with the clerk of court in the county where the impaired individual can be found. The assessment serves to determine the legitimacy of concerns and evaluate a persons true need for help.
If petition has been reviewed by the court and an order is to be issued, the impaired individual must A) served summons to appear for a hearing or B) an Ex Parte order can be given allowing local law enforcement to deliver the respondent to designated receiving facility for evaluation, stabilization or detoxification. So either there is a hearing and possibly a court order for evaluation, or a more immediate Ex Parte order that is generated shortly after filing.
Many counties have a state funded program that is established as the Receiving Facility that completes the evaluations and makes recommendations to the courts. There are many levels of care that may be recommended and there is much to understand about treatment, please click here to read about drug rebab and types of treatment for addictive disorders.
If the evaluation has been completed, the petitioner(s) may file a petition for treatment. This will be reviewed by the judge along with the assessment or evaluation and a decision will be made whether to enter an order for continued treatment. If an order is entered it will be valid for 60 days. Failure to comply with such a court order may or may not result in legal consequences.
In screening calls over the last several years we have heard about cases where the non compliant respondent was incarcerated for months due to non compliance. We have also heard of other cases where the judge in particular counties never enforce non compliance with incarceration as a rule. Once you turn your loved one over to the courts, you have very little control over the outcome. This is part of the reason we recommend exhausting other methods of intervention first and saving involuntary commitment procedures as a last resort.
We encourage the petitioner(s) to retain a knowledgeable attorney to assist them in this process if the fees are reasonable, affordable and do not take compromise their ability to provide for treatment services given that state funding is limited. The respondent or impaired person has many rights and is entitled to either hire an attorney or have one appointed if they cannot afford one.