What Happens in Marchman Act Hearings?

The Marchman Act, officially known as the Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993, is a law mandated in Florida that allows for involuntary and voluntary assessment, stabilization, and treatment of a person who may be abusing drugs or alcohol. Marchman Act hearings allow individuals to obtain assessment and treatment for loved ones with substance abuse issues. Marchman Act cases usually follow a process through the Florida court system. Prior to the hearing, an attorney will meet with you and any other witnesses involved in submitting the Marchman Act petition. The attorney will then develop a sworn petition for treatment and assessment. During the development of the petition, the attorney will ask you for information related to the person’s behavior, location, and identification in order for the petition to be filed with the county clerk of court. The clerk will then set the hearing for the case within ten days of receiving the petition. The individual being served the petition must receive the paperwork along with the notice of hearing, indicating the date and time of their hearing. It is typically required that the paperwork is served by law enforcement or another person approved to serve court documents prior to the hearing. If the documentation is not able to be served, the hearing may be canceled.

What Happens During a Marchman Act Hearing?

Marchman Act hearings can differ depending on the age and specific factors of the individual who is being petitioned. If the individual is a minor or indigent, they have the right to a court appointed attorney. Marchman Act hearings begin by testimony being given to the judge in order for him to make a judgement for enforcing an involuntary assessment Individuals who have witnessed the the petitioned individual’s behavior and overall condition should attend the hearing. The jude will ensure that all witnesses have observed the petitioned individual’s behavior and this information will allow the judge to make a conclusion regarding that individual’s need to go through an assessment and then treatment under the process of the Marchman Act.

If the individual being petitioned meets the criteria for an assessment under the Marchman Act, the judge will then sign an order that grants the petition and sets the appointment for an involuntary assessment. Occasionally, the magistrate or judge will order that the involuntary assessment take place at the time of the Marchman Act hearing. The initial assesment lasts approximately an hour and is completed by a professional in the field of addiction and substance abuse. The professional that completes the involuntary assessment is often a licensed psychologist that has been contracted by the court. If the magistrate rules over the hearing, the assessment could take up to several days to complete and sometimes longer especially if the family of the petitioned individual is able to afford placing the individual within a treatment facility.

What happens after a Marchman Act hearing?

If the individual being petitioned has been served but was not present at the Marchman Act hearing or does not attend the appointment for court ordered assessment, the magistrate or judge will send the sheriff to retrieve the individual and provide them transportation to the assessment location. After the assessment is complete and the results indicate that the individual is in need of treatment, the magistrate or judge is able to order a minimum of 60 days in treatment for the individual to complete. The treatment center that is serving the individual is able to ask the court for an extension of treatment past the 60 days if it is determined that the individual needs more time in rehabilitation.

It is important to note that the treatment facilities individuals attend following a Marchman Act hearing are not closed or locked down. If an individual decides to leave the treatment facility, the court will be notified and a status conference hearing will be set in order to address this issue. If the individual does not appear for their status hearing, the court may find the individual in contempt and they may be ordered to attend treatment again or face legal penalties.

If you or a loved one would like more information regarding the Marchman Act or the hearings involved with the Marchman Act, please contact our office at 833-497-3808. We look forward to speaking with you and guiding you through this time.