Understanding the Florida Marchman Act

Florida has an involuntary drug treatment commitment law called the Marchman Act. Many states have similar provisions designed to help drug abusers and their families when a drug abuser is a danger to themselves or others. Under all state laws, a minor child can be forced to attend, but not necessarily benefit from, a drug treatment program. However, adults cannot typically be forced to accept any kind of medical treatment. This article will serve as a guide to understanding the Florida Marchman Act.

Who Can File?

Any relative of the first degree, meaning spouse, child or parent, of the addicted person can begin the process. Otherwise, it takes three concerned non-related persons to file the court documents. Be advised before you start that although the process may seem simple enough, it’s really not. Just one techinical error will be enough for the addicted person’s court-appointed attorney to have grounds to ask the judge to dismiss the petition. Yes, that’s right: Your loved one gets an attorney for free. If you want one, and you really should hire one, you must pay for it.

To start, you will need to file the papers with the court. Since you are starting the process, you are called the petitioner. The addicted person is called the respondent. You are 100 percent responsible to prove your case. This means that you must prove the person’s addiction is out of control and that they are a danger to themselves or others. The respondent doesn’t have to prove anything. You must file in the correct court, and in this case, that will be the one closest to where the addicted person lives. If this happens to be far from where you live, that’s your problem. A Marchman can only be filed on a Florida resident.

You should absolutely hire an attorney. If you don’t and make a mistake while preparing the court papers, you can be sure the responent’s attorney will get the case dismissed. These mistakes are very easy to make. If the court dismisses the case, you will have to start over. If you make a mistake again, you will have to start over again and so forth. The reason the court provides an attorney for the respondent and not for you is to protect their right to liberty. Under the United States Constitution, you cannot deprive someone of their liberty without due process of law. The Marchman Act, and other laws like it, are coming perilously close to violating that due process in the first place, so the court wants to be sure the respondent is protected. You must remember: Although the respondent may be in desparate need of help in your opinion, it’s still your opionion. The addicted person, as far as the Marchman petition goes, has committed no crime.

It’s Up to the Judge

This is the next step. The court will set a hearing and issue a summons for the respondent. They must be served with the hearing notice, and you must file proof of this with the court. This service is also your responsibiity.

Assuming the service of the summons is successful, there will be a hearing. The responent is required to attend. If they do not, the court can issue a warrant for their arrest and force them to appear. If they show up voluntarily, they will have their own attorney to represent them. If you didn’t hire an attorney, you will be at quite a disadvantage. Even if your petition is error-free, you’ll still have to convince the judge that the respondent needs forced drug treatment rehab. The respondent’s attorney will fight you every step of the way. That’s their job.

If the judge determines that the respondent doesn’t need forced drug treatment, then you have failed to proved your case, and there is nothing more you can do legally. You may have also permanently altered or even destroyed your relationship with the addicted person as well, forever ending any future chance for trying to convince them to get help. If the judge agrees with your petition, he or she will order the respondent into treatment for an evaluation by an appointed drug treatment facility, who will then make their recommendation to the judge. This could mean inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, voluntary treatment or none at all.

Call us for Help

The Marchman Act is more complicated than what can be covered here. For more information, call us at 833-497-3808. Our trained counselors will be happy to explain the Marchman and also offer other alternatives.