How the Marchman Act Really Works

The Marchman Act is a Florida statute authorizing the forced substance abuse treatment of an adult under certain circumstances. It’s not for minors. Minors can be compelled to go to rehab by their parents. Normally, a competent adult in any state cannot be forced to take medical treatment of any kind, including substance abuse. The Marchman Act is an exception to this. Although the Marchman Act is enforceable only in Florida, many states have similar laws. This article will discuss how the Marchman Act really works.

The decision to involuntarily commit someone to drug treatment through a court proceeding should be a measure of last resort. Try a professional intervention first. Using something like the Marchman Act could permanently alter and even destroy your relationship with the person. Be sure you’re dealing with an actual addiction and not what you see as a “drug problem.” Just because someone takes a potentially addictive drug on their doctor’s order doesn’t make them an addict, and you are not a physician. Be careful with judgements like that.

Likewise, many people use drugs occasionally, including illegal ones. If the use isn’t constant and out of control, then by definition the person isn’t addicted. You may think that all drug use is unacceptable, and you’re entitled to your opinion. Just know that not everyone agrees with you.

Signs of Addiction

  • Secretive behavior
  • A change in friends
  • Wearing sunglasses indoors and long sleeves in hot weather
  • Marks on the arms or elsewhere
  • Money problems
  • Theft and dishonest behavior
  • Loss of interest in social and family occasions
  • Pinpoint or dilated pupils
  • Repeated episodes of illness that suddenly go away
  • Unreliable behavior when the person puts the drug first
  • Missing prescription drugs
  • Finding prescription drug containers with the labels peeled off
  • Risky behavior putting the person and others at risk
  • Arrest

You must be careful not to misconstrue some of these items. For example, secretive behavior is only significant if it’s sudden. Some people are just naturally more secretive than others. If your loved one is showing none of the above signs at all, it’s unlikely you’re dealing with an addiction. On the other hand, addicts are experts at hiding their habits. If they can fool a professional like a doctor, they can also fool you.

The Marchman Act

This is the procedure for involuntary drug treatment commitment:

1. A petition must be filed with the court. This right is limited to a spouse, family member or guardian or conservator. If they’re not relatives, then at least three concerned people must file the petition together. Law enforcement, therapists and physicians retain involuntary commitment rights.

2. File the petition with the clerk of the county where the person lives. You must do it this way. If it happens to be far away, that’s your problem. You must notarize the document and swear under penalty of perjury that it’s all true.

3. The judge must review the petition and decide if it’s valid or not. The addicted person may be subpoenaed to appear before the judge. If they refuse, the court can order a warrant for their detention and appearance before the judge. The judge may also decide that the matter doesn’t warrant a hearing at all and deny the matter. The burden of proof is on the petitioner, not the respondent, in this case, the substance abuser. Proving that a bona fide addiction is present is again your problem.

4. If the judge decides the petition is valid, he or she will order the abuser to go to a designated drug treatment facility for an evaluation. This evaluation may result in retention, discharge or a change of involuntary to voluntary. The facility has five days to complete their evaluation. If more time is needed, it can ask for an extension. If the facility submits a report favoring treatment, the judge will order treatment for up to 90 days.

There is no cost to file the initial petition, but be advised that treatment costs must be borne by the petitioner or the respondent’s insurance company. The whole matter dances perilously close to a denial of liberty for the respondent. Again, be positive it’s necessary.

It’s best to hire an attorney to guide you through the process so it gets done right the first time.

We can Help

For more questions about the Marchman Act, call us anytime at 833-497-3808. Our trained, professional drug counselors are here to help you with the Act and also to talk to you about possible alternatives. We’re here to help.