Marchman Act

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Marchman Act

Addiction has no boundaries and can affect any individual from any background and affluency. Although there is still a significant amount of stigma around substance use and addiction, we believe there should be no embarrassment or shame when searching for help for your loved one or family member. Addiction is a family disease and needs to be handled individually, carefully, and with precision. In 1993 the Florida legislature passed the Hal S. Marchman Act to provide loved ones and professionals a vehicle to attempt to save the life of someone immediately incapable of saving themselves from their substance use disorder. While a lawyer is not required for the petitioner, any stage of this process can be quite cumbersome, often confusing, and difficult to navigate and the assistance of a lawyer with knowledge of the law and the rules and regulations related to it can be very helpful and timesaving in this very difficult, yet potentially lifesaving process.

The Hal S. Marchman Act

Section 397.675, Florida Statutes, provides the criteria for involuntary admissions of individuals who have a substance use disorder. An individual may be subjected to an involuntary admission if there is a good faith belief that the individual is substance abuse impaired or has a co-occurring mental health disorder and because of that impairment or disorder:

The individual needs substance abuse treatment, and due to the substance abuse impairment, the person is incapable of appreciating his or her need for treatment,


Without care or treatment, the individual is likely to suffer from neglect or refuse to care for themself or there is a threat of neglect based on the substance use disorder and such neglect there is a real threat of substantial harm to his or her wellbeing or there is a substantial likelihood that that the person has inflicted, or threatened to, attempted to inflict, or in the future will inflict physical harm on himself, herself, or another.

Involuntary Assessment And Stabilization

The first step of the Marchman Act is to have the individual assessed by a qualified professional. This assessment is designed to provide a diagnosis and overview of the individuals substance use disorder, any past and prior treatment that the individual has attempted, and suggested treatment recommendations.

When confronting a loved one or close friend who is substance impaired it may be difficult to get them to agree to have an assessment conducted. Section 397.6811, Florida Statutes, provides that you can petition the court for a court order directing the individual to be assessed and stabilized. The petition can be filed by an individual family member, spouse or an adult in the community that is aware of the individual’s substance abuse. This petition will need to contain facts that support the petitioner’s belief that the person needs the involuntary assessment.

The court will then provide a copy of the Petition to the Respondent, the person whom the Marchman Act proceeding has been initiated for, the respondent’s attorney, or if respondent does not have an attorney appoint one for the respondent. The court will then issue a summons to the respondent and conduct a hearing within ten (10) days. The court may also, without notice to the respondent enter an ex parte order for the assessment and stabilization of the of the respondent.

If the court decides to issue an ex parte order it will issue what is called a civil writ of bodily attachment that would allow civil officers or law enforcement to find, detain and take the individual to the nearest addiction receiving facility that can stabilize or “detox” the individual and complete an assessment. Typically, the facility that performs the assessment can only keep that individual for up to five (5) days. The facility may keep the individual in certain circumstances as allowed in Section 397.6822, Florida Statutes.

Petition For Renewal of Involuntary Services

The second stage in the Marchman Act is the Petition For Renewal of Involuntary Services. Under Section 397.693, Florida Statutes, a person may only be ordered into treatment if the person meets the criteria in Section 397.675, Florida Statutes, and has been assessed during the timeframes required in the statute.

The person seeking the court order for treatment for the individual must abide by the strict time frames provided for in Section 397.693, Florida Statute, in order to file the Petition For Renewal of Involuntary Services. The petitioner is then required to again state in the petition the facts that support the filing of the petition and the support of the court entering an order ordering the respondent into treatment.

Once the petition is filed, Section 397.6955(1), Florida Statute, states that the clerk must determine if the respondent has an attorney. If the respondent is not represented by an attorney, the court will determine if the appointment of counsel is appropriate. If the respondent is not represented by private counsel, the court will most likely appoint the office of regional conflict counsel to represent the respondent. The court will then set the matter for a hearing within five (5) days.

At the hearing for involuntary treatment the court will look at the statutory criteria in order to determine if the facts and circumstances are enough to order the respondent into treatment. The respondent will have a lawyer appointed to them and that lawyer will try to defend them or follow their client’s wishes as it relates to this petition. Section 397.6957, Florida Statutes, states that petitioner bears the burden of proof which is by clear and convincing evidence. This means that it is the petitioner’s burden to introduce evidence in this hearing to prove that the respondent meets the criteria for to court to issue an order for involuntary treatment. Whether a petitioner represents themselves as a pro se litigant or has an attorney the presentation of that evidence must be done in accordance with the Florida Statutes and the Florida Rules of Evidence. A pro se litigant is not going to be afforded any leniency and or relaxation of the statutes and rules. It is the sole burden of the petitioner to prove through testimony, physical evidence, or other types of evidence that the respondent meets the criteria and should be ordered into treatment.

If the court decides to grant the Petition For Renewal of Involuntary Services and enters an order for involuntary services under Section 397.697, Florida Statutes, the court will likely follow the treatment recommendations that were recommended in the assessment. This order is for up to ninety (90) days. The court does not have to follow the treatment recommendations and may order higher or lower levels of care. In ordering treatment, the court has the discretion to order the respondent to a publicly funded licensed provider or a privately funded licensed service provider if the respondent has the ability to pay or a person on the respondent’s behalf expresses willingness to pay for those services.

Petition For Renewal of the Involuntary Services Order Extension

Under Florida Section 397.6975(1), Florida Statutes, the court may order an extension of the previously entered order for involuntary services or treatment. For the court to enter such an order, a petition for renewal of those services must be filed by the service provider if the service provider feels that the individual continues to meet the criteria of Section 397.693, Florida Statutes. This petition must be filed no later than ten (10) days prior to the expiration of the previously entered order for services.

While a lawyer is not required for the petitioner, any stage of this process, at Paul Figueroa Law we understand that the Marchman Act is quite a cumbersome, often confusing process for both the petitioner and the respondent. In handling these cases we also truly understand the difficulties that families and friends face when trying to navigate the process of helping a loved one who is battling a substance use disorder or co-occurring disorder. We also understand that this process can be misused by those that are seeking to use it with a motive that is anything other than trying to get a loved one the help the need. The assistance of a lawyer with knowledge of the law and the rules and regulations related to it can be very helpful and timesaving in this very difficult process. If you have questions about the Marchman Act call our office set up a free consultation.


Petitioner– individual that has filed, asked the court to assist in helping their loved one experiencing substance use disorder (SUD).

Respondent– individual that the petition(s) have been filed against that is the belief of their loved one(s) needs intervention for their SUD and need treatment.

Petition– document filed with the court that answers specific questions about the respondent’s substance use and clearly outlined concerns for their health, safety, and wellness.

Renewal– petition filed by the respondent’s treatment provider every ninety (90) days indicating the respondent needs continued treatment based on their progress or lack thereof.

Ex Parte– this means that the ‘party’ or ‘individual’ is not present and the court decides without their presence in court.

Treatment– treatment is a broad term covering all potential types of therapeutic options and placements. Some terms you may hear and are familiar with are detox (detoxification), residential, partial hospitalization (PHP), intensive outpatient (IOP), outpatient (OP), medication assisted treatment (MAT), group therapy/counseling, 12 step, individual therapy/counseling.

What we offer

Perhaps more important than having a clear understanding of the laws that govern court involved substance use treatment Paul Figueroa Law understands addiction as it relates to the individual suffering and the family. With the precision offered by Paul and the family care and encouragement provided by Jessica you can rest assured your loved one’s success if of the utmost importance and is the goal. We are not here against your loved one, but in support of their achievement of long-term sobriety and happiness.

If you are currently facing a legal situation or have questions about your legal rights, don’t wait until it’s too late. Call (813) 213-0000 now or fill out our CONTACT form to speak with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the legal process and get you the help you need to protect your future.

Practice Areas

Criminal Defense
Personal Injury