The Marchman Act: Florida’s Law for Involuntary Drug Treatment
If you’ve ever wondered whether you or a loved one could be committed involuntarily to an addiction treatment center in Florida, this page will cover such circumstances. The Marchman Act, a civil involuntary commitment statute in the state of Florida, exists to provide means to voluntarily or involuntarily commit those who are struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD), and is one of the most progressive involuntary treatment laws in the United States.
What Is the Marchman Act?
The Marchman Act, also known as the Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act, is a law that was passed in 1993 in the State of Florida.1 The Marchman Act was passed as a way to help people healthily and safely cope with their substance abuse issues when they may not be in the best state of mind to make sound decisions. While it actively encourages people with substance use issues to get treatment voluntarily, one of the main provisions of the Marchman Act is that it provides a way to have a person with a substance use disorder involuntarily committed to a treatment facility for evaluation, stabilization, and treatment under very specific circumstances.1,2
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How Does the Marchman Act Work?
The Marchman Act has specific criteria that limits the ways it can be used in certain circumstances. For example, a law enforcement officer may choose to use the Marchman Act if a person is obviously under the influence of substances in a public place and their behavior has attracted the law enforcement officer’s attention. Typically, a person’s guardian, spouse, or other relative can petition the court to have a person involuntarily committed for substance use if it is determined that the person is likely to harm himself or herself, or they cannot understand that their substance use is harmful to them.
Use of the Marchman Act in Florida is also allowed when 3 adults who know of a person’s substance use petition a judge for an involuntary commitment for treatment. However, even if a person uses substances a great deal, and refuses to go to treatment, this is not enough to invoke a Marchman Act. The judge must be convinced that the person lacks the ability to make rational decisions regarding substance use and the need for treatment and is at risk of harm to themselves or others.1,2
How do I File for the Marchman Act?
Ideally, before needing to utilize the Marchman Act, you will be able to convince your loved one to go to a treatment facility voluntarily. If it is determined at the facility that the person needs treatment, hopefully, they will then agree to a voluntary admission and no petition for a commitment under the Marchman Act will be needed. However, if the person refuses treatment assessment for a substance use disorder, you have the option to petition the court to exercise the Marchman Act and commit the person involuntarily to addiction treatment.
You first need to contact a treatment facility to ensure that there is a bed available for your loved one.2 Your county clerk’s office, such as these in Pasco County or Miami-Date County, have links that provide the necessary forms that have to be completed. These forms require you to:2
- Provide a full description of the person.
- Provide details on where he or she can be found.
- State which facility the person will be taken to.
- State the day and time that the treatment facility has told you a bed will be available for admission.
- Provide a list of any medical conditions he or she may have and a list of current medications.
Once the petition is filed, the hearing will be held within 10 days. If the judge agrees to the petition, law enforcement will serve the person with the Marchman Act order and try to get them to go to the treatment facility. If the person does not agree to go voluntarily, law enforcement will take them against their will.2
The Marchman Act: Frequently Asked Questions
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Marchman Acts & Similar Laws in Other States
Other states have similar ways to commit a person to treatment against their will. Overall, 38 states have some type of commitment procedure related to substance abuse treatment.4 These include:
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- Connecticut General Assembly Office of Legislative Research. (2012). Florida law on substance abuse treatment.
- Pasco County Clerk. A petitioner’s responsibilities under the Marchman Act.
- State University Systems of Florida Board of Governors. (2009). Fundamentals of the Marchman Act.
- Law Atlas. (2018). Laws authorizing involuntary commitment for substance use.
- Eighth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida. Ex-parte Baker Act and Marchman Act.