This is the very first of many posts by Florida-licensed Attorney, Judd R. Bean, II, from Judd Bean Law, concerning one of Florida's least known, yet incredibly powerful, State laws dealing with substance abuse & alcohol abuse addiction.
What is the concern all about?
Alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, illicit drug dealing/use, plus, countless other banned and controlled substances poise an overwhelming crisis to our Nation. Access to and reckless use of controlled or illegal drugs and alcohol abuse are increasing worldwide at an alarming speed. It's NOT just the stereotypical drug and alcohol abusers being charged under the Marchman Act... no, no; we have housewives, attorneys, nurses, teachers, retirees, and MANY other well-to-do people that are falling into the claws of addiction. Addiction is totally blind to almost every social indicator. Our goal is to dive into this integral law, discussing its purpose, it's effect on family member's, news, and positive lessons and success stories. If just one addict and their family are impacted in a positive way through education of the Marchman Act, this outreach will be an immeasurable success! Welcome aboard, let's march on! For over a decade, the Florida Marchman Act (The Florida Substance Abuse Impairment Act) has developed from what was once a little known (and, little understood) law into what is now recognized throughout Florida and nationally as one of a family's most powerful tools for addressing crisis substance use, abuse and addiction within the family unit. The Florida Marchman Act is a court process that will: (1) establish consequences and hold an impaired individual legally accountable for their continued substance abuse; and (2) empower families with a legal mechanism to interrupt the stranglehold the individuals addiction has on the people around them.
What is the Marchman Act?
It is a civil, confidential involuntary commitment statute in the state of Florida. To put it in layman's terms, it is a law devised to assist families through the courts to get loved ones into court-ordered-and-monitored intervention assessment, stabilization, or detox, and long-term treatment, when they won't do it themselves. The law is found under Fla. Stat. 397, located at this link: http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2014/Chapter397
Who can invoke the Florida Marchman Act to force someone they know into treatment?
A spouse, a blood relative, or any three people who have direct knowledge of a person's substance abuse. There are a lot of people who don't have any family at all, so that's why the law allows for three people who have independent knowledge.
What type of evidence do I need to show the court that this person needs treatment NOW?
You have to demonstrate that the person you're talking about has lost the power of self-control with respect to substance abuse, and that they are likely to inflict harm upon themselves or other people, unless they get help. Also, you must demonstrate that they don't have the capacity to appreciate their own need for care, or make any kind of rational decision regarding that care. And, finally, they're unwilling to do this voluntarily. What's interesting is a lot of times, once you file this thing, the addict says - all of a sudden - "I'll do it."
Once I file the necessary paperwork, how does the process work?
A hearing is set before the court after a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization is filed. That petition is basically saying, "Judge, I want you to have this person assessed and stabilized." Following this hearing the individual is held for up to 5 days for medical stabilization and assessment. Also, a recommendation is made to the court. Following that process, a Petition for Treatment must be filed with the court and a second hearing held for the court to review the assessment and recommendation. Based upon that recommendation, the judge can then order a 60-day treatment period, with a possible 90-day extension if needed. If the addict exits treatment in violation of the judge's order, you return to court and have the addict answer to the court as to why they did not comply with treatment and returned immediately for involuntarily care. If the addict refuses, they are held in civil contempt of court for not following the treatment order and ordered to return to treatment or be incarcerated. This why the Marchman Act works - it carries real consequences. One advantage of hiring a law firm is the ability to skip this first step and expedite the entire process. Especially the crucial phase of having the person medically stabilized. A lawyer will file a sworn petition that lays out the facts and demonstrates the need for immediate substance abuse intervention, detox and assessment. There can then be a court order in as little as 24 to 48 hours.
Must the addict be a Florida resident to be treated under the Marchman Act?
No. People who are using drugs are often transient, so it's difficult for families to lock them down with residency. With the Marchman Act, if they step foot in an area, we can file in that area. We actually have clients from all across the nation who are calling us saying, "[W]e're going to get somebody down to Florida so we can hold them."
How long will the process take?
The law provides time frames that the court system needs to adhere to upon filing. Within ten (10) days of filing a Marchman Act petition, a hearing must be held or a decision be made ex-parte. It is important for the client to understand that a law firm has no control over the clerk, judge or court system. Every county's procedure is different. Any competent attorney will work diligently with each court system to ensure that the law is followed in its entirety and expedited for the Client and Respondent's benefit. When seeking help for a loved one in a court of law, an experienced attorney with a complete understanding of the Florida Marchman Act statute as well as the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure can and will increase your success in obtaining assessment, stabilization and treatment for your loved one. An informed client should also be fully aware of the reasons that they are deciding to hire a particular law firm to accomplish their particular legal goal. If you are on your last nerve or battling with a sibling, child or loved one, and want affordable, dependable and honest representation to help you through your Marchman Act proceeding, there are many resources out there to locate someone. For more information or representation, please contact Attorney Judd Bean at 813.503.4332 or [email protected]
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