How do I get a Marchman Act petition started?
Do you have a loved one or friend who has an out of control addiction and want to have a court order them to treatment? This is a guide on the process involved.
Part One: Petition for Involuntary Assessment and StabilizationFlorida's Marchman Act consists of two phases: the first phase is the "Assessment" phase and the second phase is the "Treatment" phase. Filing a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization is the first step in the process.
You must go to the office of the Clerk of Court in the County in which the respondent (the person you are seeking help for) lives. If you prefer not to have to go in person to the clerk's office, you can retain counsel to handle this for you.
The Petition must be specific and you must describe how the person is impaired by substance abuse (use of drugs or alcohol). You should include the drug of choice, a description of the most recent instance (not 6 months ago, not 2 years ago but in the past 30 days), when you saw the person under the influence, how often the person is impaired by drugs or alcohol, and why you feel they are a danger to themselves or others. Also, you should include why you believe they cannot make a rational decision to seek substance abuse treatment voluntarily without a court order. This usually includes facts such as the person refuses to seek treatment because they feel they do not have a substance abuse problem, or they waver or go back and forth, ie., one day they say they will go, the next day they change their mind, or they do not follow up on a promise to seek treatment. This petition is filed under oath, so you must be very careful to tell the truth. Usually the clerk will put you under oath when filing the petition. The clerk then forwards the petition to the Judge. If the facts contained in the petition are specific enough, the Judge can issue what is called an "ex parte" pick up order for local law enforcement to pick the person up and securely transport them to a detox facility where they will be stabilized ("detoxed") and assessed by a substance abuse professional who will give an opinion regarding whether the person needs substance abuse treatment and what level of treatment (outpatient, intensive outpatient, residential) the person needs.
If the Judge needs more specific information, a hearing will be scheduled. The respondent can either agree to the assessment, or they can request a hearing. At the hearing, the court hears testimony and considers any evidence presented by both sides regarding whether the person meets the criteria under the Marchman Act statute. If the court decides they do meet the criteria, they are ordered to complete the assessment. If not, the case is dismissed.
When the person is assessed, the evaluator's report is then provided to you (the "petitioner"). If you want the court to order the person to complete the recommended treatment, you must file a "Petition for Involuntary Treatment" with the court within 10 days. Once a Petition for Involuntary Treatment is filed, the court must set a hearing on this petition within 5 days of filing.
Part Two: Petition for Involuntary TreatmentAt the scheduled hearing that is scheduled after a Petition for Involuntary Treatment is filed, the respondent can either agree to the petition and go to treatment, or they can request an evidentiary hearing if they are disputing that they meet the criteria for involuntary treatment under the Marchman Act statute. Even though the person may agree to voluntarily go to treatment, once the judge signs the order, they are obligated to successfully complete the court ordered treatment. If they do not, they can be subject to contempt of court.
If the respondent requests an evidentiary hearing, the evaluator who performed the initial assessment is subpoenaed to court to testify as to why they feel the person should be ordered to treatment under the Marchman Act. The petitioners can also testify about the person's substance abuse and present any witnesses or evidence of the person's substance abuse problem. The respondent can also testify and present witnesses on their behalf. After the judge or magistrate hears all the evidence, they will make a determination as to whether the petitioners have proven their case. If so, the respondent is ordered to treatment. If not, the case is dismissed.
This guide should be under a category titled "Marchman Act", substance abuse or mental health but there is no category listed for this area