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Marchman Act

The Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993, often referred to simply as “the Marchman Act,” provides for the involuntary commitment of addicts, alcoholics, and anyone struggling with substance abuse issues. Here is everything you should know about the Act and how it can help you or your loved one find treatment.

What You Should Know About the Marchman Act

In 1970, the Florida legislature enacted Chapters 396 and 397 to govern the involuntary commitment of alcoholics and drug addicts, respectively. However, the lines between these two disorders are often blurred, and the cooccurrence of the two laws created unneeded bureaucracy and prevented many addicts from getting help. In 1993, the legislature merged both chapters into the Marchman Act, named after longtime treatment advocate Reverend Hal S. Marchman.

What is the Difference Between the Baker Act and Marchman Act?

Both the Marchman and Baker Acts are vital tools for facilitating the proper care of people who are mentally ill, including drug addicts and alcoholics. However, the crucial difference between the two is:

  • The Marchman Act is specifically for people suffering from substance abuse disorders
  • The Baker Act is for people who pose a threat to themselves and or others and who are mentally ill, the definition of which excludes addiction and alcoholism

Who Can Initiate a Marchman Act Petition?

  • Medical practitioners (only for subjects 18+ years old)
  • Licensed providers of addiction treatment
  • Spouses (only for subjects 18+ years old)
  • Legal guardians
  • Relatives (only parents for subjects under 18 years old)
  • Any 3 adults with knowledge of the subject’s drug/alcohol use (only for subjects 18+ years old)

What is the Petition Process?

  1. Fill in a sworn affidavit at your local County Clerk’s office
  2. A court date is set, in between which the following may take place:
    • The subject is served for involuntary examination (service may be accepted by anyone living with the subject EXCEPT FOR the petitioner himself/herself)
    • The court will appoint an attorney for the subject if he/she is a minor (under 18 years old)
    • A process server will serve subjects who are homeless
  3. A hearing is held, during which testimony is given to proceed to an involuntary examination (if the subject is absent, law enforcement will be instructed to pick them up)
  4. An examination is held if the hearing results in the petition being granted

What Happens After the Hearing?

If your petition is granted, the subject will be examined for involuntary treatment under the auspices of the Marchman Act. The court must receive a written assessment within 5 days of the examination, after which a hearing for commitment is scheduled.

Once the court date for commitment is set, the petitioner will be notified and the subject will be served a summons. In the event they do not show, they may be held in contempt of court. In the event that they are committed, treatment must last a minimum of 60 days (with extensions set at the discretion of the facility). If they leave the facility without completion or authorization, the court is notified and another hearing will be set, in which the subject will be summoned again.

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