The Florida Marchman Act: How Does Court-Ordered Addiction Treatment Work

Many people who suffer from substance addiction don’t think they have a problem even when their substance abuse is interfering with their daily lives and family and friends are begging them to consider getting any type of help. Often times the people who are the closest to the impaired individual are the ones who will make some sense of it all and try to help. While loved ones may have the best intentions at heart, they often do not know what can be done, or where to go to get someone into addiction treatment, especially when the impaired individual is unwilling to receive any type of help. For some, professional intervention works, but for many who are unwilling to accept they have a debilitating substance abuse problem a court ordered treatment, which is available in Florida under the Marchman Act statute, is often the only way families have to save their loved one’s lives. Also known as the “Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993this act provides for emergency assistance and temporary detention of individuals requiring substance abuse evaluation and treatment. This court process may take up to 10 days and does not always result in inpatient treatment. In most cases, the judge refers the impaired individual for assessment and stabilization and appropriate treatment which could be counseling or other outpatient treatment methods. This civil procedure is designed to help families help their loved one who is suffering from an addiction but there must be evidence that the individual suffering from addiction:

  • has lost self-control with respect to substance abuse
  • has inflicted or is likely to inflict physical harm to themselves or others
  • has impaired judgment and cannot understand the need for self-care and treatment
  • has refused voluntary assessment

If the criterion is met and the court petition is successful, the mandatory treatment process may take up to about 90 days, with the court monitoring the process.

How does the Marchman Act Work

  1. The Marchman Act is initiated by filing a petition for involuntary assessment in the county court where the impaired individual It can be introduced by the friends and family of the impaired individual to help them break through their own level of resistance.
  2. A hearing is set before the court after a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization is filed.
  3. Following the hearing, the impaired individual is held for up to five days for medical stabilization and assessment.
  4. A Petition for Treatment must be filed with the court and a second hearing is held for the court to review the assessment.
  5. Based on the assessment and recommendations the judge may order a 60-day treatment period with a possible 90-day extension, if necessary.
  6. If treatment is not completed, the individual must return to court and answer why he or she did not comply with treatment. Then the individual is returned immediately for involuntary care.
  7. If the individual refuses, they are held in civil contempt of court for not following the treatment and are ordered to either return to treatment or be incarcerated.

In many cases the threat or initial filing of the Marchman Act is enough to get unwilling individuals struggling with addiction to agree to treatment, to avoid any legal and personal

Because addiction is a medical condition, the process is strictly confidential. All hearings are held in closed courtrooms, and all assessment and treatment records are protected by Federal HIPPA law.

A well-balanced, long-term treatment plan, through a Marchman Act has the potential to help the individual who is struggling with substance addiction to reach a healthy lifestyle by having the structured court-ordered framework in place to help support a successful recovery.

At Florida Center for Recovery we believe that addiction treatment does not need to be voluntary in order to be effective yet we believe that the impaired individual must be willing and open to receive treatment. If you have questions about whether or not an involuntary commitment for a loved one is the right option, feel free to contact us anytime.