What is the Marchman Act?

What is the Marchman Act? This is a piece of legislation specific to Florida allowing a civil court judge to force someone into drug treatment under certain conditions. Although other states have similar laws, in Florida it’s called the Marchman Act.

When a loved one sinks deeper and deeper into drug addiction, it can be difficult to just stand by and do nothing. Sometimes, the person will respond to a firm, but kind, plea for them to get help. This is the best case scenario. It’s always best for someone to enter drug rehab treatment voluntarily. Forcing someone into treatment with harsh ultimatums and legal action should only be done as a very last resort. Not only will these actions permanently change and possibly damage your relationship with them, people forced into treatment may not get much out of it.

Understand the Risks

Before you take this path, be sure the person is endangering themselves or others because the court will make you prove this anyway. You will need to convince the judge of this, too. Your word will not be enough. Just like any court matter, you will need to prove your case. Because you are the petitioner (the person asking the court to remand someone into forced treatment), the burden of proof will be on you. Your loved one doesn’t have to prove a thing.

There is something else you should know. While you don’t have to retain an attorney, you should, because one small mistake will be cause enough for the judge to deny your request. Of course, you will have to pay for the attorney’s services. This is in contrast to the respondent, who is the one you’re trying to force into treatment. The court will provide the respondent with legal counsel free of charge, and this counsel will be looking for ways to get his or her client’s case dismissed. If this happens, you will have to start the process all over again. Meantime, your loved one remains free until a new summons can be prepared and served.

You can expect attorney retainers for a Marchman procedure to be in the range of 7 to 10 thousand dollars.

You must remember: you are asking the judge to deprive someone of their liberty. You may feel that you are doing this for their own good, but the law takes this sort of thing very seriously. The judge will be unlikely to grant your request without compelling evidence of clear harm.

How to Petition for a Marchman

Not everyone can file a Marchman. Under Florida law, you must be a first-degree relative, which means spouse, sibling, parent or child. Alternatively, an addiction care specialist or psychologist or psychiatrist can also initiate the petition. There is also another provision whereby three unrelated concerned parties can come together and file a Marchman as a group.

The process begins with a petition. This is a statement giving the reasons for the Marchman. You must file this with the court closest to the residence of the respondent. If this happens to be far from where the petitioner lives, that’s the petitioner’s problem. You will also be legally liable for all expenses. This includes not only court expenses, but treatment expenses, too. If you want the judge to order your loved one into a particular treatment facility, be prepared to pay for it.

After the petition is filed with the court, the court will issue a summons. This is a court order mandating the respondent to appear in court on a certain day and time. Refusal to comply is a type of contempt of court and can result in a warrant for the respondent’s arrest. However, finding the respondent and serving the summons is also your problem. No one who is a party to the petition can serve the summons. It must be done by someone at least age 18 and not a party to the petition or by a process server. If you don’t know where the respondent is or they dodge service, you have another problem.

Once the summons is served, the respondent is legally required to appear at the hearing. The judge will review and consider evidence and make a finding. If the judge determines that treatment is necessary, he or she will order the person into treatment for an initial evaluation at an approved rehab facility. If the facility concurs, the judge will order rehab treatment for a period ranging from thirty to ninety days. If the facility reports that treatment is not necessary, the respondent is free to go. The facility may also decide that treatment is necessary, but that it can be done on an outpatient basis.

We can Help

If you have a drug-abusing loved one, you’re in a tough spot. It’s best to try to finesse the situation as opposed to forcing it. There are alternatives to a Marchman, and we can help you with that. Just call us anytime at 833-497-3808 for expert advice on both a Marchman and its alternatives, such as a skilled interventionist. We offer help, hope and ways to possibly get your loved one into treatment without permanently damaging your relationship with them. We’re here to help.