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What to expect when filing a Marchman Act petition

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2024 | Marchman Act |

Watching a family member or loved one struggle with drug or alcohol addiction is often heartbreaking. One of the hardest parts is knowing that you have no control over their actions or addiction.

Florida’s Marchman Act could help. The Marchman Act allows you to obtain a civil court order requiring someone to obtain drug and alcohol treatment.

A court order under the Marchman Act is essentially an involuntary civil commitment order. When an order is granted, your loved one will be required to attend treatment for up to 5 days whether they want to or not.

While this might seem like exactly what your loved one needs, it is important to have a realistic expectation of what an order under the Marchman Act can and cannot accomplish.

What to include in your petition

The first step is filing a petition. Your petition must state reasons as to why you believe your loved one can no longer make decisions for themselves regarding their drug or alcohol problem and demonstrate that they are a danger to themselves or others.

If the court approves your petition, an order will be entered committing your loved one to a facility for assessment. The court reviews the assessment and determines if additional treatment of up to 60 days is necessary.

Although obtaining the initial involuntary commitment order might be easy enough, the following steps in the process can be challenging.

Service of the order

As with any court order, your loved one must be served with the order before they can be brought for the assessment. If they do not have a permanent or stable residence, or are fighting the commitment, serving them may be difficult or impossible.

You could end up with an order that ends up being just a piece of paper. Additionally, you are at the mercy of your local Sheriff’s department to serve the order.

Sheriff’s departments will generally make several attempts to serve someone, but often have several different priorities they are juggling, so serving our order might not be at the top of their list.

Remember that it is only an assessment

It is also important to remember that getting the order only requires your loved one to appear for an assessment and they cannot be held for more than five days. Even if you accomplish service and your loved one is admitted to the treatment facility, this does not necessarily mean they will finally get the help they need.

By the time your loved one arrives at the assessment facility, enough hours or days may have gone by to allow enough time for the drugs or alcohol to get out of their system, especially if they were aware that the order was coming.

This means they could very well arrive at the assessment facility sober and denying any problems with drug or alcohol. Depending on how well they present themselves, they could pass their assessment and be released before the five days are up.

This would likely lead to the court ordering no further treatment and you feeling like all your hard work and effort were for nothing.

The purpose of the Marchman Act is for Florida families to help their loved ones get the treatment they need. However, in many cases, the addict must want help. If you have questions about the process, it is best to have them answered before beginning the process.