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Florida Marchman Act

The Marchman Act is a Florida statute that allows family members to pursue court-ordered substance abuse treatment for someone they believe may be a danger to themselves or others.

Officially called the Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993, it is designed to address serious situations in which a chronic substance user:

  • Refuses to seek substance treatment voluntarily or is unable to make rational decisions about getting help
  • Has inflicted harm or attempted to inflict harm on themselves or others

In cases where a person refuses to seek treatment, a judge will ultimately determine whether the person is able to make rational decisions.

Who Is the Marchman Act Designed to Help?

According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22.5 million people (8.5 percent of the U.S. population) aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem in 2014. But only 4.2 million of those who needed it received any substance use treatment that year.

Involuntary treatment laws like the Marchman Act may help more people get the help they need.

In Florida, parents of minor children can legally enroll their child into an involuntary treatment program if they believe the child needs substance abuse treatment. But a person over the age of 18 cannot be forced to accept substance abuse treatment.

This is where the Marchman Act can help. It enables a family member to petition the state for court-ordered treatment for their loved one.

However, this doesn’t mean a person in treatment is “locked up.” Most Marchman Act programs are voluntary, which means the only thing keeping the person at the treatment center is the court order.

The Marchman Act vs. The Baker Act

If you’ve been doing research online, you might have come across the Baker Act and wondered how it’s different from the Marchman Act.

The Marchman Act is used to get a person into treatment for chemical dependency, especially in cases where they are or appear to be a danger to themselves or others.

Conversely, the Baker Act is used to get a person psychiatric help when they are or appear to be a danger to themselves or others.

Initiating a Marchman Act Case

If you have not been able to successfully convince your loved one to voluntarily seek substance abuse treatment, consider consulting a qualified Florida intervention expert. If an intervention doesn’t work or isn’t an option, you may consider filing for the Marchman Act.

A spouse, relative, guardian, or three concerned unrelated individuals can file a Marchman Act petition if they’ve observed the person’s uncontrollable substance use behavior. A physician, therapist, or law enforcement officer can also file an emergency petition for involuntary treatment.

Before you file, consider consulting an attorney familiar with the Marchman Act. A qualified attorney will ensure the petition is filed correctly and will assist you throughout the process.

If you don’t have the option of hiring an attorney, you can file the petition paperwork directly with the clerk of the court in the county where the person lives.

Florida has 67 counties, and all of them have their own rules. Some counties may ask you to go directly to the default addiction treatment provider for instructions on filing a petition.

The person who files the paperwork must swear to the truthfulness of the petition, which will then be notarized and sent to the judge for review.

The judge (or magistrate) will review the petition and decide whether to accept or deny it. A petition can be denied for several reasons:

  • If the respondent (the substance user) doesn’t meet the criteria for the Marchman Act
  • If the respondent’s behaviors are too dangerous for the treatment provider to manage or if treatment services are not available
  • If there are no funds available to pay for treatment

If the judge accepts the petition, a hearing will take place. Depending on the outcome, the person may be involuntarily assessed and sent to treatment for up to 60 days (or longer if the judge approves).

You must be able to attend all county courthouse hearings, so plan for this.

If the respondent (substance user) doesn’t comply with treatment orders by refusing to go to treatment, leaving treatment early, or something else, the judge may decide they are in contempt of court. This is generally punishable by jail time. However, many counties will not enforce treatment orders with jail time.

Getting Help for Your Loved One

Initiating a petition under the Marchman Act should always be a last resort. You should only pursue this avenue if you are concerned your loved one might hurt themselves or someone else—and only after appealing to your loved one to seek addiction help voluntarily.

Marchman Act clients often require a more intensive level of care. RECO Intensive offers comprehensive alcohol and substance abuse treatment in Florida at our Delray Beach addiction treatment centers.

We offer several levels of care, including residential treatment, partial hospitalization programs, and intensive outpatient programs. We also offer mental health services, sober living housing, and detox referral programs for those who need it.

Get in touch with our admissions team today to learn more.

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