The Florida Marchman Act – How It Works

Substance abuse is a huge problem for millions of people in the United States. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 20.2 million adults in the United States have a substance use disorder.1 This includes people participating in any form of dangerous use of psychoactive substances, including both alcohol and illegal drugs.1

Many people who might need professional rehabilitation never get it because their substance abuse makes it difficult to realize if they are a danger to themself or others.2 

If you have a family member or a friend who is struggling but isn’t willing or capable to understand that they require help, you probably want to do all you can to assist them. This is the reason behind the existence of the Baker Act and the Marchman Act in Florida. Thanks to these two acts, relevant institutions might hold your loved one in custody for up to 5 days for assessment.2 This should be enough to determine if the person needs further addiction-related services

If you are a Florida resident, you can use the Marchman Act and the Baker Act to help people around you who are facing difficulties get proper help if the institutions deem it medically necessary.

One of the most difficult tasks for families affected by substance abuse is convincing the addict that drug rehab is needed. Interventions are one option that can lead the addict to voluntarily seek help, but sometimes the addict simply won’t budge. In such instances, it may be time to consider forcing the addict into substance abuse rehab. More than a dozen states have laws dealing with involuntary commitment for addiction treatment. Florida’s Marchman Act is among the most progressive of these laws, and Fort Lauderdale attorney Raymond G. Ferrero III is an expert in this field. In this section, Ray answers some of the more common questions about the Marchman Act.

What is the Marchman Act?

It’s a civil, confidential involuntary commitment statute in the state of Florida. To put it in layman’s terms, it’s a Florida law devised to assist families through the courts to get loved ones into court-ordered-and-monitored intervention assessment stabilization or detox, and long-term drug treatment when they won’t do it themselves.

The federal government enacted the Marchman Act in the early 1970s, but it was refined in 1993.4 According to the Florida Law on Substance Abuse Treatment, it allows families and Meridian staff to request the involuntary assessment if the person is:5

  • A substance abuser who is likely to harm himself or others.
  • So impaired that they cannot recognize the need for the treatment.

In other words, this is a legal intervention drug rehab for a person who may not be capable to voluntarily get help.

A person may end up involuntary admitted if there are suspicions that they are abusing substances to such extent that they:3

  • Have lost the power of self-control because of substance use.
  • Have inflicted, threatened, attempted to inflict, or is likely to inflict physical harm on themself or another.
  • Need substance abuse service but they are so impaired that they are incapable of understanding their need for such services.

If you file a petition for your loved one, they will be held in custody for up to 5 days until the court hearing is scheduled. The court will decide on the further necessary steps.2 

It is important to mention that the legal confidentiality of meth abuse treatments and services offered in meth helplines, as well as rehab services for other substances, help save the identities of people who are struggling.

Who can invoke the Florida Marchman Act to force someone into treatment?

A spouse, blood relative or any three people who have direct knowledge of a person’s substance use. Many people who don’t have any family at all, so that’s why the law allows for three people who have independent knowledge.

What Is the Baker Act?

The Baker Act in Florida, also known as Chapter 394, Florida Statuses (F.S.), is a legal way to petition for a crisis stabilization unit to pick up and transport a person for an involuntary psychiatric examination.7

This act states that the person in question has to act in such a way that there are good-faith reasons to believe they might cause harm to themselves or others. If your loved one meets the Baker Act requirements, the judge will sign the emergency admission order.7

According to the Baker Act Reporting Center’s Fiscal Year 2018/2019 Annual Report, there were 210,992 involuntary examinations from July 1, 2018, until June 30, 2019. Three-quarters (73.33%) of these examinations were for adults aged 18 to 64, 17.95% were children, and 7.33% were people older than 65. 1.39% have unknown age.10

However, this doesn’t mean that every one of these reports ended with the patient being hospitalized. The patient needs to meet all the Florida baker act criteria according to at least 2 doctors.8

What Is the Difference Between the Marchman Act and Baker Act?

When it comes to the Marchman Act vs. Baker Act, there are some key differences.

  • The Marchman Act Florida law is invoked for individuals who are deemed deeply impaired because of substance abuse. On the other hand, the Baker Act is a law meant to provide people with a way to get help for their loved ones who are suffering from a crippling mental disorder.
  • These acts don’t last for the same period of time. For example, when you’ve Baker Acted someone, they can be held involuntarily just for 72 hours, or 3 days.9 On the other hand, the Marchman Act Florida statute requires individuals to stay in the involuntary hold for up to 5 days.
  • The criteria for the two acts are different. When you’re Baker acting someone, that person needs to be in danger of harming himself.9 However, according to the Marchman Act in Tampa, it can be enough if the person you want in involuntary assessment threatened to harm someone or themselves.
  • In order to invoke the Marchman Act and get a person in long-term drug rehab in Florida, you need to have direct evidence of their substance abuse.3 This isn’t the same for the Baker Act, meaning it’s enough to just co-sign that your loved one requires urgent medical help.
  • The Florida Baker Act form is also somewhat simplified compared to the Marchman Act in Florida, as you don’t need to provide strict evidence

How Do I File a Marchman Act Petition?

There is a set of rules on how to Marchman Act someone. To petition the court and request an involuntary psychiatric examination order, you first have to know their private information, such as:

  • Patient’s address.
  • Patient’s date of birth.
  • Patient’s age.
  • Patient’s height.
  • Patient’s weight.

There are no filing fees for the Marchman Act petition in Florida. However, while filing out the Marchman Act form, you need to address multiple questions about the individual who you think is in danger and who is refusing voluntary substance abuse treatment. These questions include:

  • Why do you believe the individual is substance abuse impaired?
  • Why do you believe that because of such impairment the individual has lost the power of self-control concerning substance abuse?
  • Why do you believe that the individual has inflicted or is likely to inflict physical harm on themselves or others unless admitted? 

Who Can File the Marchman Act In Florida?

According to the Marchman Act under Florida law, if you are requesting the admission into a treatment program of an adult, this petition could be filed by the:

  • Spouse.
  • Patient’s doctor.
  • Any relative of the patient.
  • Any 3 adults that know the patient.

The request for admission of a juvenile may be filed by:

  • Parent.
  • Legal guardian.
  • Legal custodian.
  • A licensed service provider

What Can I Expect After I File My Marchman Act Petition?

Once you have started the Marchman Act process, you may be called to a scheduled hearing before a court judge. If the case is deemed extreme, there might be an ex parte (with the interest of one side only) order issued for the person struggling with addiction to be picked up and assessed.

Once the hearing is completed, the judge will determine whether there is a need for court-ordered admission and which rehab treatment centers in Florida might be the best choice for the assessment.

If the judge finds that the Marchman act statute criteria for the involuntary treatment in Florida aren’t met, they may discharge the case before the official evaluation of the respondent.

In most cases in Florida, the individual will spend up to 5 days in some of the Marchman act receiving facilities after the involuntary admission for assessment order. Once the evaluation is complete, the admission team from the facility will decide whether there is a need for further treatment in some of the Marchman Act receiving rehab centers in Florida or a voluntary admission.2

If the court concludes the patient meets the criteria for the Marchman Act, how long they will be kept in some of the inpatient drug rehab centers in Florida depends on the severity of their case. The patient might stay in involuntary treatment for up to 60 days, but the court may extend this for up to 90 days.

How Do You Get Someone Involuntarily Committed in Florida?

This depends on why you want to have someone committed. If you fear the person is struggling with mental health issues, you should invoke the Baker Act. If your loved one is abusing psychoactive substances, then you need to Marchman Act them.

What kind of proof must I provide that this person needs treatment now?

You have to demonstrate that the person has lost the power of self-control with respect to substance use, and that they’re likely to inflict harm upon themselves or other people unless they get help. Also, you must demonstrate he or she doesn’t have the capacity to appreciate the need for care or make any kind of rational decision regarding that care. And finally, they’re unwilling to do this voluntarily.

Once you file, many times the addict suddenly says, “Okay, I’ll do it.”

Once I file the necessary paperwork, how does the process work?

A hearing is set before the court after a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization is filed. That petition basically says, “Judge, I want you to have this person assessed and stabilized.” Following this hearing, the impaired individual is held for up to five days for medical stabilization and assessment. A recommendation is also made to the court.

Following that process, a Petition for Treatment must be filed with the court and a second hearing is held for the court to review the assessment and recommendation. Based upon that recommendation, the judge can then order a 60-day drug treatment period with a possible 90-day extension, if necessary. If the addict exits treatment in violation of the judge’s court order, you return to court and have the addict answer to the court as to why he or she did not comply with treatment and returned immediately for involuntary care. If the addict refuses, he or she is held in civil contempt of court for not following the treatment order, and is ordered to either return to treatment or be incarcerated. This is why the Marchman Act works – it carries real consequences.

One advantage of hiring a law firm is having the ability to skip this first step and expedite the entire process, especially the crucial phase of having the person medically stabilized. A lawyer will file a sworn petition that lays out the facts and demonstrates the need for immediate substance abuse assessment, detox and intervention. There can then be a court order in as little as 24 to 48 hours.

Must the addict be a Florida resident to be treated under the Marchman Act?

No. People who are using drugs are often transient, so it’s difficult for families to lock them down with residency. With the Marchman Act, if they step foot in an area, we can file in that area. We actually have clients from all across the nation calling us saying, “We’re going to get somebody down to Florida so we can hold them.”

Is an attorney needed to seek treatment under the Florida Marchman Act?

An attorney isn’t required under the Marchman Act, but an experienced attorney does offer a greater chance of success. 9-of-10 families who try to take advantage of the Marchman Act on their own often run into difficulty because they simply don’t know the rules of civil procedure. It’s like doing your own criminal case or divorce. Many Marchman Act filings are dismissed for technical reasons, even though the addict fits all the necessary criteria to qualify.

It’s also important to note that in order to protect the addict’s due-process rights, every addict who appears in court under the Marchman Act has an attorney assigned to them. Families walk in there thinking they’re trying to get someone help, and suddenly their loved one has an attorney trying to get the case dismissed.

We like to tell the families, “Look, you tell us to start this thing, and then it’s time for you to step back. You’ve dealt with enough, and it’s time for us to shoulder the burden here. We’re going to get the person into treatment, and if they leave, we’re going to get them back.”

The law firm, Addiction Recovery Legal Services, was specifically created to help families benefit from the years of experience we have in working on Marchman Act cases.

Will treatment under the Florida Marchman Act cost more?

Addiction Recovery Legal Services is a private firm, so there is a cost involved for hiring us, with the exact cost varying based upon the complexity of the case. The good news is that we work with families through payment plans, because we know that oftentimes treatment can get expensive.

We charge a flat fee, so families know upfront the cost of our services, and we offer a free and thorough initial consultation. For families without the ability to pay for treatment, we can explore state-funded treatment options at county-subsidized facilities.

Get Addiction Treatment Help in Florida

If you need help understanding how to Marchman act someone, the American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help. Their helpline can provide you with all the necessary answers to your questions and help you get professional guidance for your loved one via phone. Other than their rehab facilities in Florida, they have other facilities in the country, offering treatment services to those in need.

AAC can also help you see if your insurance covers the costs of drug treatment forced through the Marchman Act and verify your insurance status. While there are certain state-funded rehabs in Florida, these types of treatment centers offer advanced treatment methods and high-end care. With the help of a caring admissions navigator team, you can make the first step of the process.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Get Someone Court-Ordered Rehab?

  • If you feel like your loved one needs to go to some of the rehab facilities in Florida, you can attempt to invoke the Marchman act. Once the person is taken into custody, the court will order an assessment which will further decide whether the respondent needs to be placed in one of the rehab facilities in Florida.5

Who Pays for Court-Ordered Rehab?

How to Get Someone Into Rehab against Their Will?

  • When you feel that your loved ones need to go into rehab, you have to understand how to Marchman Act someone. This includes providing evidence of their substance abuse. If you’ve properly filed the form and if the relevant institutions deem it necessary, the person you’re petitioning for will get involuntarily assessed and if there is a need, placed into a rehab.While not all states offer the same possibilities, the Marchman Act requirements are the same no matter in what county you live in. For example, there is no difference between the Marchman Act in Miami and the Marchman Act in Tampa. However, some of the services may vary.5

How to Baker Act Someone in Florida?

  • To Baker Act a person in Florida, you should fill the Baker Act form or call the Baker Act phone number and provide the necessary information.

What Happens After the Baker Act?

  • When the Baker Act is invoked, the person will be taken to a certified mental health facility for evaluation. They can be held for up to 72 hours. The person can volunteer to remain in the facility longer, but the court might order so if rehab is needed and the person refuses it.9

What Happens When Someone Is Baker Acted?

  • When you’ve Baker Acted someone, the staff at the certified mental health facility will evaluate them to determine if there is a need for further treatment.9

Who Can Baker Act Someone?

  • A Baker Act can be requested by:10
    • A parent.
    • Legal guardian.
    • Spouse.
    • Relative.
    • Private physician.
    • Licensed service provider.