INVOLUNTARY CIVIL COMMITMENT FOR ADDICTION ISSUES IN FLORIDA – THE “HAL S. MARCHMAN ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUG SERVICES ACT”
This morning I answered a question on AVVO from the father of an adult offspring who was reportedly out of control, dangerous to himself and others and enabled by way of having access to lots of cash. This is a sad situation and, sadder still is the fact that it is not isolated and occurs all too often. Following is some information on the “Marchman Act”, which can be found at the following link:
The Marchman Act is a process by which to seek and secure a civil, confidential involuntary commitment in the state of Florida. The law was designed to assist families to get loved ones into court-ordered-and-monitored intervention assessment stabilization or detox, and for long-term treatment when they need it but won’t voluntarily accept the fact for themselves.
Any spouse, blood relative or any other three people “who have direct knowledge of a person’s substance abuse” can go to Court and seek to invoke the Marchman Act.
In order to prove the immediate need for treatment you have to demonstrate that: A) the person has lost the power of self-control with respect to substance abuse, B) that they’re likely to inflict harm upon themselves or other people unless they get help, C) the the subject doesn’t have the capacity to appreciate the need for care or make any kind of rational decision regarding that care, and D) that the person in question is unwilling to get help / treatment voluntarily.
The process requires that a “Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization” be filed with the Court (the petition basically says: “Judge, I want you to have this person assessed and stabilized”) and then a hearing will automatically be set. Following this hearing, the individual can be held for up to five days for medical stabilization and assessment, and a recommendation as to future care will also be made to the court.
If further treatment is sought then, following that process a “Petition for Treatment” must be filed with the court, prompting a second hearing being held in order for the court to review the assessment and recommendations. Based upon the same the Judge can then order a 60-day treatment period with a possible 90-day extension, if it is deemed necessary.
In the event that the subject leaves her/his Court Ordered treatment in violation of the judge’s order then a warrant will issue and s/he will be compelled to return to court so as to answer as to why s/he failed to comply with treatment, and the overwhelming odds are that the subject will be immediately returned to the residential facility for further involuntarily care. If the subject further refuses then s/he will be held in civil contempt of court for not following the treatment order, and s/he will be further ordered to either return to treatment or be incarcerated. This is precisely why the Marchman Act works, because it carries real life consequences.
While an attorney is not required to seek help under the Marchman Act an experienced attorney oftentimes offers a greater chance of success. Why? Simply put because lawyers, unlike lay-folk, are trained in both the rules and the law. It is a sad reality that many Marchman Act filings are dismissed for technical reasons, even though the addict / subject fits all the necessary criteria to qualify.
A major advantage of hiring a a lawyer to handle the process is that a lawyer will tend to expedite the entire process, especially the crucial phase of having the person medically stabilized. A lawyer will know how to go about filing a sworn petition which meets the requirements of law, laying out the facts and demonstrating the need for immediate substance abuse assessment, detox and intervention. If properly prepared and filed then there can then be a court order in as little as 24 to 48 hours.
Another excellent reason to have a lawyer assist you is that the subject will have counsel (whether private or appointed). This is required in order to protect the subject addict’s due-process rights. Every addict who appears in court under the Marchman Act has an attorney assigned to her/him, and it is not uncommon for petitioners to walk into Court under the impression that they’re going to get someone that they care about help, only to realize that their loved one has an aggressive and well-trained lawyer of her/his own who is fighting like Hell to get the case dismissed.
While many criminal defense attorneys do this sort of work so too do many civil lawyers as well. However, if you wish to do this on your own, then note that many Clerk of Court’s have Marchman Act information (their forms, procedures, and requirements) online on their websites, and a simple “Google” search for “_______ County Marchman Act” will direct you to both relevant Clerk websites and a variety of local lawyers who can be of assistance.
I hope that this information has been helpful.
For more than 23 years Michael A. Haber, P.A. has been providing creative, effective and zealous advocacy and counsel in cases ranging from DUI to drug trafficking and from misdemeanors to first degree murder.
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