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Using The Marchman Act To Get Your Loved One Into Rehab Involuntarily

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

January 17, 2019

A person suffering from addiction may be unwilling to admit they have a problem and therefore refuse to seek help. The Marchman Act may help family members get loved ones into drug rehab even if he or she refuses treatment.

Understanding The Marchman Act

Florida’s Substance Abuse Impairment Act (Marchman Act) is part of a Florida statute that helps people receive treatment for addiction. The act is also known as the Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act.

The Marchman Act is a law that permits a person to be admitted for an assessment or treatment for substance abuse against his or her will. The law may help family members to petition that their loved one is assessed by the court system for a substance use disorder without their consent.

A substance use disorder (SUD) occurs when a person’s use of drugs and/or alcohol leads to health issues or problems at work, school, or home. Many people suffering with SUDs are unable or unwilling to stop using drugs without help. In some cases, a person with a SUD will deny that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol, even if it seems obvious to others.

The Marchman Act can help friends, and family members get their loved ones into court-ordered rehab, medical detox, and long-term treatment if they are unwilling to do it themselves.

What is the basis for committing a loved one into rehab using the Marchman Act?

The process of the Marchman Act can begin if a person is suspected to have a problem with drugs or alcohol. The Marchman Act is only effective in the state of Florida, although Connecticut has a similar method for involuntary admission into rehab.

Here is a list that of reasons that an individual may be admitted to drug rehab without their consent, in Florida:

  • individual has lost the power of self-control of drug or alcohol abuse
  • the individual has inflicted, or threatened, or attempted to inflict, or unless admitted is likely to inflict, physical harm on himself or herself or another
  • individual needs substance abuse services and by reason of substance abuse impairment, their judgment does not allow them to appreciate the need for such services and making a rational decision based on that need
  • Note: Mere refusal to receive services does not constitute lack of judgment.

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Who can use the Marchman Act to force a person into drug rehab?

A spouse, guardian, relative, or any three adults who have direct knowledge of substance abuse may file a petition with their county clerk to have an individual committed to drug rehab. Some people do not have family members, which is why the Marchman Act allows three adults with personal knowledge of substance abuse to petition for rehab treatment.

Does a person have to be a resident of Florida to be treated under the Marchman Act?

The Marchman Act only applies to Florida, but a person does not have to be a resident of Florida in order to be involuntarily sent to rehab. As long as a person is in the state of Florida, they can be treated or sent to rehab, and the law has been used for people from across the United States of America.

Is an attorney needed for the Marchman Act?

It isn’t necessary for the family to have an attorney is for the Marchman Act, but having the guidance of an experienced professional can improve the chance of success. Many families run into problems with the Marchman Act because they don’t completely understand the law or civil procedure.

Each person on trial has a right to a fair trial, and through due-process, each citizen is entitled to fair treatment in the judicial system. Each person on trial with the Marchman Act will be represented by a court-appointed attorney to help them get the case dismissed.

Some Marchman Act cases will be dismissed due to a lack of evidence, or other technical reasons. An intervention may show a person how their drug or alcohol abuse is affecting his or her loved ones, thus making them more likely to accept treatment.

Marchman Act Admission Procedures

A Marchman Act hearing is set before the court after a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization has been filed to the county clerk’s office. There are several other procedures that can force a person involuntarily into rehab, those include:

  • General Involuntary Admission
  • Protective Custody
  • Physician’s Certificate
  • Emergency Admission
  • Extension of Involuntary Treatment

General Involuntary Admission

During a General Involuntary Admission to rehab treatment, a person may be involuntarily admitted into rehab if there is good faith reason to believe that they are substance abuse impaired and that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol.

Protective Custody Procedure

In a protective custody case, a law officer may take a person in need of addiction treatment to a hospital, licensed detoxification, rehab center, municipal building, county jail, or detention center.

A law enforcement officer may have someone placed in custody if they appear to meet the involuntary admission criteria in a public place, or in a way that attracts the officer’s attention. Protective custody may not be considered an arrest.

Physician’s Certificate Procedure

A physician certificate may be sent with a Marchman Act application and must state that the physician examined and assessed a person to be admitted within five days of the application date. A physician certificate must specify the relationship between the physician and the person to be admitted, the applicant, and the treatment facility.

Physician’s certificates may be used with or without a person’s consent, if there is a petition for involuntary assessment, or if treatment has been initiated.

Emergency Admission Procedure

A physician, spouse, guardian, relative, or any other responsible adult with personal knowledge of a person’s substance abuse may file for an emergency admission into treatment. For a minor, a parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian may petition to have him or her involuntarily admitted into treatment.

An emergency admission application must be turned in with a physician’s certificate, and the physician’s examination must have taken place within five days of the application date in order to be effective.

Extension of Involuntary Treatment

A service provider is able to file a petition to renew a treatment order at the very latest 10 days before the initial order expires if the patient continues to meet the criteria for involuntary treatment. After an extension is petitioned, the court will schedule a hearing within 15 days of the petition being filed. The court may grant the extension for up to 90 days.

More About Alcohol And Drug Abuse In Florida

It was estimated that in Florida, in 2015, 10.1 percent of people over 12 years old abused illicit drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. Illicit drugs kill more than 64,000 people each year in the U.S.

Alcohol can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol claims an estimated 88,000 lives each year in the United States.

How To Tell If A Loved One Abuses Drugs

A person struggling with addiction may act strangely, spend a lot of time alone, not be able to spend a day without using a substance or act aggressively when they are unable to drink or use drugs. It’s hard to watch a loved one struggle with drug or alcohol addiction, and forcing them into rehab isn’t always possible, but it may be easier with the help of the Marchman Act.

Connecticut Laws/Regulations - Florida Law on Substance Abuse Treatment

Center for Disease Control and Prevention - Costs Of Drinking

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