Dealing with a loved one who has a substance abuse probably can be a difficult task. Addiction can make even the most sensible person act in an irrational manner, and this erratic behavior only becomes more severe when you try to take away the source of their addiction. The emotional toll of fighting with a loved one who has a problem is difficult enough, but navigating the legal problems of finding help for someone who doesn’t want it can only exacerbate the problem. Fortunately, Florida passed the Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act in 1993 to help alleviate the red tape for friends, family members, or other worried individuals seeking out treatment for individuals who are suffering from a drug problem but unable or unwilling to reach out for assistance themselves. Normally, anyone in Florida over the age of 18 can’t be forced to undergo medical treatment unwillingly for any reason, but the Marchman Act allows individuals to petition the court for mandatory treatment of drug or alcohol addiction. While it may seem an extreme measure, it’s sometimes the only humane option available.
How to File a Marchman Act Petition
Committing a patient involuntarily for treatment is never a decision that should be made lightly, and that’s why the courts require a meticulous assessment of the circumstances on the behalf of the filing parties. If you think it’s necessary to file a Marchman Act petition, treat the task with the same level of care an attorney would to civil or criminal case. You have to demonstrate to the judge that the subject of the petition meets three important criteria:
- A discreet and discernible addiction to alcohol or another drug
- A high likelihood of injuring themselves or others as a result of their addiction
- An inability to recognize the extent of their problem or their need to seek help
- A lack of willingness to get help under circumstances short of court mandate
To prevent the unfair treatment of defendants, not just anyone can file a petition under the Marchman Act. The most common petitioners are spouses and blood relatives, although any three people who display an intimate knowledge of the individual’s substance abuse problem may file on their behalf. Starting the process simply requires the petitioner to visit the clerk at your local county court. They’ll provide you with a packet containing all of the necessary paperwork you’ll need to file to put the case into motion. This typically requires signing a sworn affidavit and attesting to the behavior exhibited by your loved one. Hearings are scheduled within 10 days of the petition being filed. It will then be presented to a magistrate judge who will render a verdict based off of the evidence presented. Evidence typically consists of verbal statements from the petitioners and other loved ones. In many cases, the filing of the petition is enough to encourage a loved one to pursue treatment, bu this isn’t always the case. The Marchman Act isn’t reserved merely for residents of Florida. Involuntary treatment statutes can vary from state to state,
Since a Marchman Act petition is a civil matter, you may want to enlist the services of an attorney. While the act exists to help those in the most need, the severity of involuntarily interring a citizen and the natural legal complications can create difficulties for those with little to no experience with the civil courts. 90% of families who decide to file a petition without the help of a lawyer face complications along the way. Often these are legal technicalities that can jeopardize otherwise justified circumstances. Since the loved one you’re trying to find treatment for is technically a defendant, they’ll be assigned a court appointed lawyer to help them combat the case. This can exacerbate the strains of a painful process, and that’s why it can be important to have a qualified professional at your side. They can prevent an already personal issue from becoming too acrimonious and help you pursue the best interests of the person you love with a clear head and transparent vision.
What Happens After the Initial Hearing
If the judge evaluates the information in your petition and deems it appropriately filed and adequate cause to consider treatment, they’ll hold your loved one for a period of up to five days to properly stabilize any effects of their addiction and perform a thorough evaluation of their circumstances. The treatment facility will then provide the judge with a recommendation regarding ideal treatment. You must then file a Petition for Treatment at which point a second hearing will be held. The judge will consider the terms of your petition and the recommendation and assessment to determine the right course of action. The judge may place a sentence for up to 60 days in a treatment facility, and if this time proves inadequate to address the root problem, they may decide to extend it by as many as 90 more days.
Since the sentence is mandatory, family members simply can’t walk out and avoid consequences. If your loved one leaves the facility they’ve been assigned to for treatment, they’ll be held in contempt of court and presented with the option of either being returned to treatment of incarcerated. The strict but necessary terms of these verdicts make Florida an ideal place to come when you’re struggling to help someone you care about understand the severity of their problem. Of course, recovering from addiction can be a lifelong process, and you may want to consider bringing in an intensive intervention counselor to assist with what happens once your loved one’s mandatory sentencing is complete. They can work closely with you to understand the dependencies of your loved one, evaluate the best treatment options available to them, and put together a plan of action that can provide the support and structure addicts and alcoholics need when they reenter everyday life.
Dealing with a loved one who has a substance abuse problem isn’t easy, but addiction can be overcome with the right push. Call 800-723-7376 to speak with one of our counselors and learn more about the options available to you.