Understanding The Florida Marchman Act
The Marchman Act is a state law in Florida that allows concerned family members to send their addicted loved ones to rehab on an involuntary basis. The law can be implemented upon a person who meets the designated criteria and is considered in danger of one’s own mental or physical health due to their substance abuse. While there are many states that permit involuntary commitment to treatment, Florida is the only state with the Marchman Act.
Denial is a common characteristic among addicts and alcoholics, so they aren’t always willing to get the help they need. As a result, many people who suffer from addiction don’t even realize they need help until they have suffered immensely. The Marchman Act serves as a way for concerned families or friends to force their loved ones into rehab in hopes that they will recognize their problem and become willing to make a change.
If you live in Florida and have a family member or friend who refuses to go to treatment and is suffering from addiction, you may be able to force them into rehab using this civil procedure.
What is the Difference Between a Baker Act and a Marchman Act?
If you have been to addiction treatment yourself or have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, you may have also heard of the Baker Act. The Baker Act is a process that allows family members to place their loved one in a medical or hospital setting for a mental health evaluation and psychiatric hold. While the Marchman Act is used primarily for people with drug or alcohol addictions, the Baker Act is primarily used for people with mental illness or suicidal tendencies. 
Another difference between the Baker Act and the Marchman Act is that the Baker Act can only commit individuals to a psychiatric facility for up to 72 hours when a person is deemed to be of danger to themselves or another person. The Marchman Act, on the other hand, can order people to remain in substance abuse treatment for 60-90 days.
How Does the Florida Marchman Act Work?
The first step towards implementing this procedure is to file a petition with the court for involuntary assessment and stabilization using Fla. Statute 397. Although it isn’t mandatory, the best way to ensure success with the petition is to consult with a civil attorney before initiating the process. In order to petition the court, however, the petitioners must be able to prove that the individual in question has a serious problem with drugs or alcohol. This can be done by consulting with an addiction professional.
The addiction professional and the family must be able to prove that the respondent:
- Refuses to go to rehab voluntarily
- Suffers from impaired judgment and is unable to make a rational decision regarding his or her own care
- Has caused, or is likely to cause, physical injury to his or herself or other people unless admitted to a treatment facility
- Is unable to control his or her substance use
Once these points have been proven and a petition has been filed with the court, the judge will defer the course of treatment to the addiction professional. The addiction professional may recommend inpatient or outpatient care. The court can mandate a person to rehab for up to 90 days in Florida.
Although there is no charge to file a petition with the court, addiction treatment is not free. If the respondent does not have health insurance and has no way to pay for treatment themselves, they may be mandated to a state or county-funded facility. Sometimes, these facilities will have long wait times and strict eligibility requirements that make obtaining care quickly somewhat difficult. If the respondent does have a means of paying for treatment, a rehab facility can be agreed upon by the individual, the petitioner, and the court.
Who Can File a Marchman Act in Florida?
Prior to 2016, the only people allowed to petition for a Marchman Act proceeding were a spouse, blood-relative, or guardian. If a friend wanted to petition, they would need a total of three unrelated adults who have witnessed the person’s drug and alcohol use first-hand.
In 2016, however, a provision was added to the Marchman Act allowing just one unrelated person with first-hand knowledge of a substance use problem to petition the courts. This makes it much easier for people to get help for their addicted friends. Other people who may be able to file an emergency petition are a physician, therapist, or law enforcement officer.
In rare cases, individuals may choose to Marchman Act themselves. All that is required of this for the individual to fill out the paperwork and petition the courts themselves. Although this is rarely done, some people may choose to do so to hold themselves accountable during treatment.
If someone leaves rehab while they are under a Marchman Act, they will be considered contempt of court and may face jail time. Since the only way to avoid this is to complete treatment, this provision can serve as motivation for individuals to stay in rehab and complete their treatment plan.
Find Help for a Loved One Today
If you are interested in seeking court-ordered rehab for your loved one, the Marchman Act may be the solution you need. To learn more about our treatment programs or to speak to an addiction professional, contact us today. Our dedicated addiction specialists are standing by eager to take your call.
Medically Reviewed: January 19, 2021
Medical Reviewer | CWC Recovery Staff
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.