The Marchman Act: Guide to Florida’s Law for Involuntary Drug Treatment

Florida‘s Marchman Act helps those suffering from addiction, or those looking to help a loved one suffering from substance abuse disorder, find proper treatment. This page will answer all of your questions about the Marchman Act and how it can be used to provide a means to voluntary or involuntary treatment. It’s considered one of the most progressive involuntary treatment laws in the U.S.

Florida's Marchman Act for Involuntary Drug Treatment

What Is The Marchman Act?

The Florida Marchman Act governs voluntary and involuntary assessment and admissions for those struggling with substance abuse.

In 1971, legislators passed The Florida Mental Health Act bringing about a dramatic and comprehensive revision of Florida law, due process and civil rights of persons in mental health facilities. 

The Mental Health Act, also known as the “Baker Act” – after Maxine Baker, the former State Representative from Miami who sponsored the Act while serving as chairperson of the House Committee on Mental Health – opened the doors for more meaningful legislation around mental illness, substance abuse treatment and comprehensive laws such as the Marchman Act in 1993.

The Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993 (also known as the Florida Substance Abuse Impairment Act) was developed to provide a comprehensive continuum of accessible and quality substance abuse prevention, intervention, and treatment services in the least restrictive environment that protects and respects the rights of clients – especially for involuntary admissions. It was named after Hal S. Marchman, an advocate for those who struggle with and suffered from alcoholism and drug abuse

What’s The Difference Between the Baker Act and the Marchman Act?

The primary differences between the Baker Act and the Marchman Act is that the Baker Act, although similar in procedure and process, does not involve substance use treatment.

While the Marchman Act actively encourages people with substance use issues to get treatment voluntarily, one of the main provisions is that it provides a way to have an individual struggling with an SUD involuntarily committed to a treatment facility for evaluation, stabilization, and treatment under very specific circumstances.

For more information about the Marchman Act, contact the Florida Department of Children and Families or visit their website at  

Discover the facts about the Marchman Act and Petition Process

How Does the Marchman Act work?

Anyone who wishes to enter treatment for substance abuse may seek out treatment on a voluntary basis or an involuntary basis under methods established by the Act. While the Act encourages people to seek voluntary treatment, it recognizes the challenges denial of SUD and addiction may present, and helps to remove the barrier of early intervention and getting treatment. 

As a result, the Act establishes a variety of methods under which stabilization and treatment can be obtained. There are five involuntary admission procedures to this effect – three of which do not involve courts and two of which do require direct petitions to the court. 

Non-Court procedures are:

  • Protective Custody
  • Emergency Admission
  • Alternative Involuntary Assessment for Minors

Court-Related Procedures:

  • Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization
  • Involuntary Treatment 

Regardless of the nature of the proceedings, the same criteria apply to both involuntary and voluntary admissions

How Do I File a Marchman Act Petition? What are the Criteria?

The Marchman Act has a specific set of criteria that limits the ways it can be applied. Law enforcement may choose to apply the Marchman Act in order to protect someone they see to be obviously under the influence of substances and potential harm to themselves and others. Alternatively, it can often be a guardian, spouse, relative, or friend who is able to petition to the court and have a person involuntarily committed for substance use

The application of the Marchman Act in Florida is permitted when three adults, who are aware of a person’s substance use, petition a judge for an involuntary commitment for treatment. The judge must be convinced that the individual lacks the ability to make rational decisions regarding substance use and is at risk of harm to themselves or others, thus needing treatment.

Marchman Act Criteria and Petition Procedures

A person may be the subject of a petition for court-ordered involuntary treatment if they meet the criteria provided for involuntary admission.

The petition may be filed on an adult person by any relative, any three adults who have personal knowledge of a person’s substance abuse impairment, a guardian or person’s spouse. It may be filed on a minor by a parent, legal guardian, legal custodian, or licensed service provider. It may also be filed by a law enforcement officer, private practitioner, or qualified professional.

According to the Pasco County (Florida) official site, a person the court determines meets the criteria for involuntary assessment and stabilization, may be admitted to a facility for up to five days.

Criteria for The Marchman Act

The Marchman Act User Reference Guide (2003) by the Florida Department of Children & Families, lists the criteria for involuntary admissions as:

  • A loss of self-control with respect to substance use; and either
  • The individual, family member or loved one has inflicted, threatened or attempted to inflict physical harm on himself/herself or another; or
  • The individual, family member or loved one‘s judgment has been so impaired that they are unable to or incapable of recognizing their destructive substance abuse patterns are harmful or troublesome. 

After encouragement, the individual, family member, or loved one has refused voluntary assessment and treatment

Procedure for Involuntary Assessment & Stabilization

The Procedure for Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization according to the Pasco County website is: 

  1. Complete the requirements provided in the document, “A Petitioner’sResponsibilities Under The Hal Marchman Act prior to filing a petition. 
  2. Complete the petition and file it at a Court Operation location
  3. The Court will review the petition and either grant or deny the request (without a hearing or ‘ex parte order’)
  4. If the Court grants the petition, the subject of the petition (an individual struggling with substance abuse) will be served a copy.

The court may order a Sherrif to take the person into custody or a licensed service provider may admit a client for involuntary assessment and stabilization for a period of fewer than 5 days if the court finds it necessary.

Procedure for Involuntary Treatment

The Procedure for Petition for Involuntary Treatment (court-ordered) is much like the above with a few variations. After completing the petition and other paperwork:

  1.  The Court determines if it will grant or deny the petition (without a hearing)
  2.  If the petition is granted, the Court will set a hearing within 10 days
  3.  The respondent/subject of the petition (individual struggling with SUD) will receive a court-appointed attorney. 
  4.  The Notice of Hearing will be served on the subject of the petition, guardian or legal custodian, petitioner, or whomever the Court may direct. 
  5.  The court will hear all of the relevant evidence 
  6.  The respondent must be present at the hearing (unless waived by the Court)
  7.  At the hearing, the petitioner(s) have the burden of proving their petition to have this person involuntarily committed.
  8.  The Court determines if the respondent is substance abuse impaired and that as a result of this has lost the power of self-control; or the Court can deny the petition

Marchman Acts & Similar Laws in Other States

Connecticut, South Carolina, Georgia, California and Texas are just a few states that have similar ways to commit a loved one involuntarily when their safety is concerned. In total there are 38 states in the U.S. that have some type of commitment procedure related to the protection of those struggling with substance abuse treatment

Find Substance Abuse Help Today at Riverside Recovery of Tampa

If you believe you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder or addiction and you are unsure of what to do next, contact us today. Our staff is standing by ready to answer any questions you may have. 

Florida Courts–Floridas Dependency Benchbook Marchman Act Hearing

Florida Department of Children and Families–Marchman Act User Guide 2003

Pasco County Clerk–Marchman Act

Orange County State’s Attorney–Baker Act