Involuntary Commitment Under Florida’s Marchman Act

February 17, 2022 Criminal Defense, Drug Charges, Drunk Driving/DUI, News & Announcements

*The information is provided as a public service. Pumphrey Law does NOT handle Marchman act cases unless criminal charges are filed*

The Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act, commonly referred to as the Marchman Act, was passed in 1993 as a measure to help individuals cope with their substance abuse issues by actively encouraging them to voluntarily seek treatment. Florida’s Marchman Act is codified under Chapter 397 of the Florida Statutes, which encompasses voluminous provisions centered around substance abuse services, including sections focusing on Florida’s Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council, treatment-based drug court programs (if you would like to read more about Florida’s mental health courts, click here), licensure requirements for service providers, client rights, voluntary and involuntary admission procedures, offender referrals, inmate substance abuse programs, and children’s substance abuse services. For purposes of this blog, the main focus will be involuntary commitment under the Marchman Act.

Generally, the Act encourages individuals to voluntarily seek treatment, however, it permits that a person with a substance use disorder may be involuntarily committed to a treatment facility for evaluation, stabilization, and treatment if specific requirements are met. Substance abuse or addiction can involve “alcohol, illegal drugs and/or prescription drugs like hydrocodone (Vicodin), Roxicodone, oxycodone (OxyContin), or benzodiazepines (Xanax/Valium), along with illegal, non-prescription drugs like methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy, heroin and/or cocaine (crack/powder).”

Statutory Intent

Under Section 397.305 of the Florida Statutes, the intent of the Act is to “provide a comprehensive continuum of accessible and quality substance abuse prevention, intervention, clinical treatment, and recovery support services in the least restrictive environment which promotes long-term recovery while protecting and respecting the rights of individuals, primarily through community-based private not-for-profit providers working with local governmental programs involving a wide range of agencies from both the public and private sectors.” Importantly, the Act aims to deliver individualized care without discrimination and take into account the specialized needs of each person.

Furthermore, the Act was enacted with the hope that services could be established for individuals with co-occurring substance abuse and mental disorders. Florida’s Baker Act, also known as the Florida Mental Health Act, provides legal procedures pertaining to mental health treatment and examination, and also allows for the involuntary commitment of mentally ill individuals if certain requirements are satisfied. Therefore, the Marchman Act helps expand on Florida’s Baker Act by adding the element of substance abuse. If you would like to read more about the requirements, procedures, and possible results of Florida’s Baker Act, visit our blog post here.

Who can File?

Who must file the petition under the Marchman Act depends on whether the individual in need of treatment is an adult or a child under 18 years of age. For an adult, the filer must be a person’s spouse, relative, guardian, or three non-relative adults with firsthand knowledge of the individual’s substance abuse. However, a parent, legal guardian, or custodian of a child may initiate a petition.

What Must be Proven to File?

Under Section 397.675 of the Florida Statutes, the first step in filing a Marchman Act is for a qualified service provider to determine if there is a good faith reason to believe that the person is substance abuse impaired or has a co-occurring mental health disorder, and, because of such impairment or disorder:

  • The individual has lost the power of self-control when it comes to their substance abuse;
  • The individual has impaired judgment so far that they are incapable of understanding their need for care or making an informed decision regarding such need;
  • The individual has already inflicted or is likely to inflict physical harm on themselves or others unless they are involuntarily committed; and
  • The individual has refused to voluntarily seek assessment

If the addiction professional believes these requirements have been met, a petition for involuntary treatment may be filed.

Ways to File

In order to have a person court-ordered for treatment under the Act, a petition must be filed with the court. According to Florida’s Marchman Act website, the following are three ways in which you can file a Marchman Act for a loved one struggling with addiction:

  • File it yourself – go to your local county courthouse, complete the Marchman Act package, and submit it to the court. Although this is the cheapest option, as the petitioner, it is your responsibility to ensure you file the petition properly.
  • Hire an attorney – Although more expensive than filing yourself, an experienced attorney can ensure all documents are filed properly and you are prepared for the proceeding, however, you can still create, implement, and monitor an effective treatment plan yourself.
  • An intervention counselor can help – a counselor will help create, implement, and monitor an individualized treatment plan and provide you with guidance on how the Marchman Act can be applied to a long-term treatment plan. This is normally less expensive than an attorney.

What Happens Once the Petition is Filed?

Once the petition is filed, a judge will decide if an ex parte order for involuntary examination and stabilization is appropriate, which would be used in an emergency situation that calls for immediate action. If this is the case, the judge will issue an order for law enforcement or other designated agent of the court to take the respondent into custody and deliver them to the nearest facility for evaluation. However, if the situation is not an emergency requiring an ex parte order, the court will hold a hearing within 10 days and hear all relevant testimony and evidence to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to believe the respondent meets the involuntary admission criteria and should be required to undergo a court-ordered evaluation. The respondent can retain private counsel or request legal counsel and have a lawyer appointed for this hearing. If the court finds they do not meet the criteria, they can deny the petition. The petitioner bears the burden of proving that the respondent is impaired by substance abuse and needs to be professionally evaluated. If the court orders the evaluation, facilities must conduct the evaluation within 5 days, although they may seek an extension given certain circumstances. Depending on the results of the evaluation, the facility may discharge the client, change their status to voluntary, meaning they are voluntarily seeking treatment, or request that the court require the individual to enter involuntary treatment services that can last up to 60 days. If the facility seeks to extend the treatment, another hearing would be held, and a judge can grant a treatment extension for up to 90 more days.

It’s important to note that if the court involuntary commits an individual to treatment, failing to stay in treatment renders them in contempt of a court order which may result in legal penalties like jail time.

Who Covers the Cost?

Although there is no cost to file a petition under the Marchman Act with the court, the evaluation and ordered treatment are not free. These costs will be first submitted to the client’s health insurance company or paid by the client or their family. If costs are not covered by health insurance, most counties will utilize a state-funded program to work with the patient or their family on a sliding scale fee structure that is based on income and other factors.

The Importance of a Marchman Act Defense Attorney

If a judge finds you are in need of involuntary treatment services, you may have to attend treatment for up to 60 days, or if a treatment extension is filed, an additional 90 days. If you believe the petition filed in your case includes false or exaggerated allegations of substance abuse, it is imperative you retain an experienced attorney to help challenge the legality of the order or file a motion to dismiss the Marchman Act. A motion for early release from involuntary treatment can also be filed depending on the details of your case. In the event that criminal charges are filed, Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience helping navigate various legal matters and will explore every applicable defense in your case. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

*The information is provided as a public service. Pumphrey Law does NOT handle Marchman act cases unless criminal charges are filed*

Written by Sarah Kamide

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