Florida’s Marchman Act

by Bonner Law | Feb 18, 2021 | Firm News

The Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act is otherwise known as the Marchman Act. The Florida Legislature enacted the Marchman Act to help combat the growing drug and alcohol addiction epidemic. The Marchman Act established a statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council and requires each county in Florida to fund a treatment-based drug court program that people can be directed to by court order. The Marchman act also guides how individuals can be involuntarily committed to drug or alcohol addiction treatment.

Involuntary Admission Under the Marchman Act

Under the act, someone may only be admitted involuntarily if:

  1. They have lost the power of self-control surrounding their substance abuse AND
  2. They are either in need of substance abuse services but are unable to assess this need due to impaired judgment or, without commitment, they will refuse care for themselves and will be at risk of substantial harm without said treatment.

Once a person has been directed to a service provider, service providers are required to assess whether the individual meets the aforementioned requirements for involuntary commitment. The facility must also assess whether they can provide the proper and necessary treatment for the patient, whether the patient has the financial means to pay for treatment, and ensure the patient has a safe environment. If they refuse to admit a patient, they must refer the patient elsewhere and provide that referral’s contact information in writing as well as the reason for denying the patient.

Who Can File for Involuntary Admission?

A spouse, relative, guardian or three concerned unrelated individuals who have witnessed the individual’s drug or alcohol abuse can file a petition with the court to have someone involuntarily committed which must be reviewed and approved by a judge. A physician, therapist or law enforcement officer may file an emergency petition with the court as well.

Once someone has a filed a petition, a judge may either grant the request, deny it, or request a hearing for the petition. The potential patient may request a court appointed lawyer if he or she cannot find or pay for their own counsel.

How Long Can You Be Committed for Under the Marchman Act?

Patients ordered to involuntary treatment by the court are not under lockdown. They are, however, in treatment under a court order, which makes leaving the facility a violation of that court order. Yet, many counties do not enforce noncompliance with treatment orders with jail time.

Most treatment facilities are voluntary facilities that facilitate patients directed to treatment under court order as well as patients who committed to treatment voluntarily. A judge can order up to 60 days of involuntary treatment when a petition is filed and granted. A judge can extend a treatment order by up to 90 days more upon a request for treatment extension filed with the court.

Violations of the Marchman Act

Facilities, law enforcement officers, and doctors are required to follow the steps outlined in the Marchman Act to involuntarily commit someone.  If a treatment center did not assess you to ensure you meet the prerequisites for involuntary commitment or if a doctor, treatment center, or law enforcement officer did not file the proper petition in court before committing you to treatment, they may be liable for falsely imprisoning you and violating your rights under the Marchman Act.

If you believe your rights under the Marchman Act have been violated, please contact Michael P. Bonner, Esq. at mbonner@bonner-law.com or call us at 305-676-8800 for a free consultation. Attorney Michael P. Bonner has over 30 years of experience in legal claims involving medical facilities.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance or alcohol abuse, feel free to consult the following resources, provided to us by Help.org: