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marchman act
February 18, 2022

How to Have Someone Involuntarily Committed

Having an addicted loved one can be heartbreaking and frightening. Routinely dealing with the fallout of their unpredictable or unethical behavior may also leave you desperately searching for solutions. While organizing a family intervention is one way to make someone you care about come to terms with the consequences of their actions, those meetings do not always have the desired outcomes, especially when people are in deep denial about the extent of their problems.

In Florida, the Substance Abuse Impairment Act – also known as the Marchman Act – allows families to petition the court for mandatory substance abuse assessment and up to 60 days of rehabilitation. Florida legislators passed this law in 1993 to encourage people with substance use disorders to seek help voluntarily. It also provides a way to have a person involuntarily committed to a treatment facility under specific circumstances.

How Does the Marchman Act Work?

Under Florida law, a peace officer can use the Marchman Act if they see someone behaving irresponsibly in a public place while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and have reason to believe that person is endangering themselves and others. 

Family members can also use the Marchman Act to have a loved one involuntarily committed for substance abuse if they petition a judge. However, merely claiming someone needs help and refuses to go to treatment is not enough to invoke the Marchman Act. To have someone involuntarily committed, the judge must determine the person is at risk of harm to themselves and others and cannot make rational, responsible decisions regarding their drinking or drug use.

How to File a Marchman Act Petition

Ideally, the person you care about will see the light and agree to enter treatment on their own. If they refuse, you have the option to petition the court to exercise the Marchman Act and commit them to addiction treatment involuntarily.

First, you will need to reach out to an accredited Florida drug and alcohol rehab facility to ensure they have the capacity to admit your loved one. Then, you must go to your county clerk’s office and complete the necessary paperwork before submitting it to the court. After you have filed your petition, your hearing will take place within 10 days. If all your paperwork is in order and the judge decides in your favor, law enforcement officers will serve the person with the Marchman Act order and try to convince them to go to the treatment facility. If the person does not agree to go voluntarily, the police will take them against their will. 

For your peace of mind, you also have the option of hiring an experienced attorney to help you file the Marchman Act and navigate the legal proceedings with you. Keep in mind that this can be expensive, with attorney’s fees ranging in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Any lawyer you hire is also not responsible for ensuring your loved one gets effective treatment.

Are You Concerned About Your Loved One’s Well-Being?

Florida also has a state law called the Baker Act, which provides a means to commit someone involuntarily for mental illness treatment. The Baker Act follows a similar process, but it does not involve addressing a loved one’s substance misuse problems. 

Since mental health disorders and substance abuse often go hand in hand, you must find a rehab facility specializing in dual-diagnosis treatment if you are searching for a way to address both these issues simultaneously. At Beach House, we offer qualified treatment for co-occurring disorders in a compassionate environment with industry-leading, nationally recognized practices of clinical excellence. Tour our resort-like campus and explore our program options to learn more about how we can give your loved one the best chance of making a full recovery.

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