The Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993 provides for the involuntary or voluntary assessment and stabilization of a person allegedly abusing substances like drugs or alcohol, and provides for treatment of substance abuse in the state of Florida.

The courts have jurisdiction of involuntary assessment, stabilization petitions, and involuntary treatment petitions for substance abuse impaired persons. The process is for a petition to be filed with the local court system (typically the county) and proceed from there.

Who can file an Involuntary Marchman Act Petition?

In addition to a law enforcement officer’s authority to implement protective custody measures in emergency involuntary situations, a private practitioner, the person’s spouse or guardian, any relative of the person, the director of a licensed service provider or the director’s designee, or any three (3) responsible adults who have personal knowledge of the person’s substance abuse impairment or, in the case of a minor, the minor’s parent, legal guardian, legal custodian or licensed service provider can file an Involuntary Marchman Act Petition.

Some people feel that involuntary treatment doesn’t do any good, but the reality is that this law exists because sometimes using legal intervention is the only thing that can help save someone’s life. Someone who is out of control and on a personal path of destruction is not of sound mind, and when they can be stabilized, either through short term assessment or longer term treatment, there is an opportunity to make real change and reverse the cycle.

A Petition for Involuntary Assessment may be filed when there is good faith reason to believe an individual is substance-abuse impaired and because of that impairment, has lost the power of self-control with respect to substance use. The Petition is filed with the Clerk of Court and must be set for hearing within 10 days. Notice of hearing is provided by mail to the petitioners. The patient is served notice of hearing by the Sheriff. A General Master presides at the hearing. After hearing all relevant testimony, the court may enter an Order for Involuntary Assessment. Unless arrangements have been made for assessment at a private facility, the court order shall direct the Sheriff’s Office to take the patient into custody and deliver him/her to a public facility licensed by the state. The facility will assess and stabilize the patient for a period not to exceed 5 days. A written assessment is sent to the court. Once the written assessment is received, the court may proceed with the Petition For Involuntary Treatment.

Petition for Involuntary Treatment may be filed once the written assessment is reviewed by the court and the recommendation is involuntary treatment. Notice of hearing is provided by mail to the petitioners and any attorney on record. The patient is once again served notice of hearing by a plainclothes Deputy Sheriff. A general master presides at the hearing and after taking all relevant testimony, the court may enter an order for involuntary treatment for a period not to exceed 60 days. It may also direct the Sheriff to take the patient into custody and delivery him to the licensed facility.