Florida Marchman Act FAQ
Information from Tranquil Shores & Our Recovery Specialists
Watching someone struggle with drug or alcohol abuse is a traumatic experience for friends and family. As their addiction progresses, the person may transform beyond recognition, and their substance abuse may become more harmful over time. When addiction escalates to the point of someone posing a threat to themselves or others, the people around them typically wonder what they can do to help their loved ones.
If someone you care about in Florida won't seek treatment for a dangerous addiction, the Marchman Act may be an option for getting them the help they need. In this guide, our addiction recovery and rehab professionals from Tranquil Shores provide answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the Marchman Act. If have any more questions or want to speak with an addiction treatment specialist now, then please call (727) 888-6623.
What Is the Marchman Act?
The Marchman Act is the colloquial name of a Florida-specific statute that was created to provide help to people who meet two of three criteria:
- They have lost self-control regarding their substance abuse; and
- They pose a danger to themselves or others through action or neglect; or
- They do not have an appreciation of their need for treatment and are not able to make rational decisions in terms of their care as a result of their substance abuse.
The Florida Marchman Act allows a civil court (not a criminal court like drug court in some states) to order requiring an adult impaired by addiction to undergo an assessment for substance abuse and, potentially, complete treatment. If the person in question does not comply with the civil court order, there is a range of potential legal consequences decided by the individual judge. In short, the Marchman Act allows you to help a loved one who is in danger due to severe addiction by officially intervening and pointing them toward treatment options.
How is the Marchman Act Different from the Baker Act?
While the procedures of the Marchman Act are meant to provide help to a person with a substance use disorder, the Baker Act addresses people who are suffering from one or more mental health issues. It is very common for addiction to occur in conjunction with mental illness, so the relationship between the Baker and Marchman Acts can become complicated. The Marchman Act can address the issues of a person with both mental illness and addiction, but the Baker Act addresses mental illness only and would not likely be used to secure treatment for someone also suffering from addiction.
How Does the Marchman Act Work?
The Marchman Act starts with you taking action – filing a petition for assessment to see what is wrong with your loved one and what can be done to help them. It also presents the person addicted to drugs or alcohol with a simple choice – either the person submits to getting addiction treatment, or they face legal consequences for refusing to follow the court's order. Once a person goes through a stage of stabilization, they often recognize the need for treatment. For most people, the idea of going for help is terrifying but once they arrive at the treatment program, start feeling better after detox, and start to look at what brought them to this point, they often fear leaving the program and recognize the need for help.
Is Involuntary Treatment Actually Effective?
Many people worry that the involuntary nature of treatment started via the Marchman Act won't produce the desired results. Many think that the person has to want to change for treatment to be successful. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people to do get help because they see the need for it; they get help because someone loved them enough to help them go for help. Further, with drug addiction, many drugs contribute to or cause certain mental health issues which make it virtually impossible for the person to understand or recognize what they are doing to themselves. They are incapable of rational thought.
The Marchman Act is effective because it immediately removes the person from their substance abuse situation and may involve medical detoxification. After that, the mandated treatment period offers the person ample time to think about their choices and the consequences of addiction. For many, this is enough to motivate the loved one to pursue and engage in recovery.
The majority of studies on the subject suggest that people that are legally pressured to participate in treatment have outcomes just as good as or better than those who entered treatment of their own volition. Those under legal pressure also attend at better rates and stay in treatment programs for longer, which are both key elements in recovery success.
I Am Deeply Worried About Someone Abusing Substances – What Should I Do?
If you have tried unsuccessfully to convince someone to seek addiction treatment of their own volition, it's time to consider stronger action. Before turning to the Marchman Act, you should consult with an interventionist. An intervention is more serious than a one-on-one conversation and may be able to convince the person of how important it is to get treatment, but it is not as intense as invoking the Marchman Act.
However, if one or more serious interventions end up failing, it may be time to take legal action. Consult an attorney or get in contact with a treatment center that has an in-house legal team, like Tranquil Shores. Filing for the Marchman Act is a serious legal action that should not be undertaken without professional legal advisement.
Does the Marchman Act Require a Locked Down Recovery Facility?
Many people worry that the person targeted by a Marchman Act petition will be placed in a locked-down facility with no agency or ability to leave. Most of the programs utilized in a Marchman Act order are open-door and technically voluntary. The person is only made to stay with the knowledge that they will be defying a court order if they do not complete the program. T his allows a balance between freedom and obligation that can encourage patients to follow through on their treatment.
Who Can File Petitions for an Adult?
A Marchman Act can be filed in some cases by a doctor or law enforcement officer, typically in emergencies. If friends or family members want to file a Marchman Act petition, it requires a spouse or relative. Alternatively, a petition can be filed by one non-related adult that has a firsthand accounts of the impairment caused by the person's substance abuse.
Where Do I File a Marchman Act Petition?
This will vary depending on the county. The one thing to remember is that you have to file in the county where the person is currently residing, and you will have to attend all of the hearings in the process. It's most common to file the petition at the county's main courthouse.
How Do I File a Marchman Act Petition?
To file a Marchman Act petition without using an attorney, you have to be physically present at the site. You will fill out the petition in full and get it notarized. You must then swear to its veracity. After that, you'll wait to find out if the court will grant you a hearing. If you work with an attorney, the attorney assists in drafting the petition and facilitates the notarization. Then the attorney will use an electronic filing system to submit the petition to the clerk of court.
The first step is to file either a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization or Chapter 397 Ex-Parte Petition for Assessment and Stabilization (Emergency) form with the clerk.
The form must include the facts that support your request for relief and show:
- Reasons you believe the person is impaired by substance abuse.
- Reasons you believe the impairment has led to the person losing the power of self-control regarding substance abuse.
- Your reason for believing the person has or is likely to cause physical harm to themselves or others; or,
- Your reason for believing the person's judgment is so impaired that they don't appreciate the need for care, and that they can't make a rational decision about receiving treatment.
If the person has previously refused to submit to a substance abuse assessment, you must list the refusal in the petition. Once this part of the petition is notarized and filed, you will be granted a hearing. At this point, the respondent — the person who needs treatment — must be served. You will have to find and pay for a certified process server to complete this step.
What Should I Bring with Me?
You should bring government-issued photo identification as well as an address where the respondent can be found to be served and picked up for treatment. You also need information on the treatment center that the respondent will be going to. An address and phone number are necessary, and it is beneficial to obtain an acceptance letter.
Although filing the petition itself is free, be sure to bring payment for any additional fees there may be. In some counties, you may need to make payment to either the court or the sheriff's office.
What Should I Expect After Filing a Marchman Act Petition?
After the respondent has been served, you and any other petitioners will attend your previously scheduled hearing in which the court either accepts the petition and calls for an Order of Involuntary Assessment or decides to dismiss your petition.
If your petition is accepted, you will need to file a Chapter 397 Petition for Involuntary Treatment. The form requests similar information as the initial petition you filed. Again, you will need to schedule a hearing and find a certified process server. You, other petitioners, and the respondent must be present for the hearing. If the judge orders involuntary treatment at the hearing, they can order law enforcement to take the respondent into custody and take the person either to a licensed treatment provider specified by the order or to the closest licensed provider.
Why Would a Petition Be Denied?
Because there are multiple steps to filing a Marchman petition, there are several places where a denial might occur.
For example, your petition might be denied if the:
- Petition offers conflicting, incomplete, or incorrect information.
- Respondent can prove that some or all of the allegations populating the petition are false.
- Assessment concludes that intervention is not necessary.
What is an Ex-Parte Petition?
An ex-parte petition only allows the petitioner to be heard initially. With an ex-parte petition, you would file and wait for the court to evaluate its legal sufficiency. This is done without hearing the respondent's side. If the judge determines the petition is sufficient, the respondent is then informed of the upcoming hearing. T hey also get the chance to contest the allegations you have made in the petition. This is a good option if you expect hostility from the respondent, as it reduces the time you spend together in court.
How Long Does It Take to Secure a Hearing for a Marchman Act?
The hearing date for a Marchman petition can be scheduled a maximum of 10 days after the date of filing. However, judges understand that time is of the essence and typically schedule Marchman Act hearings well before the 10-day limit.
What If the Respondent Needs Help Immediately?
Drug and alcohol use can rapidly escalate to the point where the person is an immediate danger to themselves or others. When the case is dire, and there is no time to wait for a hearing, the Marchman Act has provisions for filing emergency petitions ex-parte. This allows the respondent to be taken to treatment immediately by law enforcement.
Does the Respondent Have to Be a Florida Resident to Receive Treatment Under the Marchman Act?
No. The Marchman Act can be applied to anyone currently in Florida, regardless of their residency status. However, you do need an address where the person can be found, so they can be served and potentially picked up for delivery to treatment. Homeless people cannot be Marchman Acted. Not having an address on the petition may be cause for denial.
Is It Necessary to Hire an Attorney to Seek Treatment Under the Florida Marchman Act?
No. It is not required by law to work with an attorney when filing a Marchman Act petition. However, if you are unfamiliar with court procedures or do not have time to learn the process,person is not familiar enough with legal terms and procedures to complete the process with success or expediency. If you attempt to file a Marchman Act petition by yourself, you are much more likely to make errors that lead to your request being dismissed.
What Is the Maximum Period a Respondent Can Be Held for the Petition's Initial Assessment?
Someone under an assessment order via the Marchman Act can be held for up to 72 hours. For the process to go smoothly, it's in the best interests of the respondent for the provider to conduct the assessment as quickly as possible. However, if the assessment cannot be conducted within five days, the provider can request an additional seven days from the court to complete the evaluation and report the results.
Can a Treatment Order Be Extended?
The Marchman Act allows the court to order the respondent to undergo substance abuse treatment for a period of up to 90 days. For many people, this is more than enough time to see positive results from treatment and begin a stable recovery. If the person is resistant to treatment or is not making enough progress and the court determines that the initial treatment period has been insufficient, the judge may order further treatment in further 90-day increments.
What Happens If the Respondent Doesn't Comply with the Treatment Order?
The consequences of ignoring a Marchman Act treatment order depend on the individual judge. Refusing to comply with a treatment order is the equivalent of being in contempt of court, so the person could be subject to going to jail if they are found to be out of compliance with the court order.
What Do I Do If the Person Isn't Complying with Treatment?
If you find out the respondent is failing to complete treatment and law enforcement has not yet taken notice, you can file a Motion for Contempt of Court for Failure to Complete Treatment. You will explain what the court originally ordered and what the respondent didn't do regarding that order, and request another hearing to start the process of carrying out the consequences.
Who Covers Treatment Costs When Someone Is Marchman Acted?
For the most part, the respondent to the petition is responsible for the cost of their own treatment. Those with the funds or private insurance for treatment can choose from private facilities as long as the petitioners agree to the choice. Payment for treatment can also be arranged by the petitioners, which is most common when the petitioners are spouses or parents of the respondent. Respondents who lack insurance or the money to pay for treatment will go to a county facility where there is no cost of treatment.
Can I Choose a Treatment Provider?
Yes. As long as the provider is licensed and you can arrange payment for treatment, you and other petitioners can agree on a treatment provider for the respondent's care. It is generally a good idea to seek the respondent's cooperation in choosing the provider, as it can increase treatment retention. There may be certain services that only a few treatment programs provide that may make the person more amenable to accepting treatment.
What Are the Benefits of Choosing a Private Treatment Provider for a Marchman Act?
In most cases, the most immediate benefit of choosing private treatment for your loved one is that they will be able to enter treatment more quickly. Public treatment often has a long waiting list for open beds, but private centers are much more likely to have space available immediately. When addiction has intensified to the point of a Marchman Act, the more quickly the person gets treatment, the better.
Private centers also have a great deal more resources than county treatment programs. The respondent will enjoy better accommodations, more forms of therapy, and possibly even alternative therapies that may enhance the treatment experience.
If I Marchman Act Someone, Is the Treatment Provider Under Obligation to Share Information with Me?
Treatment providers are under very strict rules about what they can share with parties other than the respondent, due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. Under this privacy law, the respondent's health information cannot be shared with anyone not involved in the patient's treatment, unless the patient waives their privilege and gives explicit consent. Given that Marchman Acts occur under pressure and often duress, it is not particularly common for the respondent to want to share their treatment information.
Are Marchman Act Records Confidential?
The entire process of filing a Marchman Act is confidential. No one besides the petitioners, respondent, lawyers, and care providers have access to the court records on the petition. There will be no acknowledgment that a case has been filed either online or on the records sheet. You can be sure your privacy and that of the respondent will be protected by law.
Tranquil Shores Is Your Source for More Marchman Act Information
Considering a Marchman Act is often stressful and uncertain for everyone involved. Even though you know your friend or loved one's destructive addiction must be treated to save their life and potentially the lives of others around them, you're also struggling with the emotional weight of the person's response. Additionally, you want to know that the treatment the person receives is effective for them. Tranquil Shores in Tampa Bay, Florida, can put your mind at ease with information and resources about the addiction treatment your loved one can receive under the Marchman Act.
To learn more about our addiction treatment programs and what makes our integrative recovery model so effective, call Tranquil Shores at (727) 888-6623 or reach out online.