How Do I Start The Marchman Act Process And What Should I Expect?

How Do I Start The Marchman Act Process And What Should I Expect?

While filing the Marchman Act is never an easy thing for a filing family member or their loved one, setting the Marchman Act process into motion is actually fairly simple, only requiring the filing of a Petition for Examination.

The specific procedure for filing this petition varies by county, but to look at Palm Beach County as an example, the petition takes the form of a five page document that requires “specific facts of recent behavior” to support your claim that your loved one is either a danger to themselves or a danger to others or too incapacitated by their substance abuse to recognize their need for care. 

Along with this description sheet, you will also be required you to fill out a date of birth form, notice of related cases, and cover sheet, and will need to get this petition notarized. Then, you will file it to unified family court. Palm Beach County requires no filing fees, but the person you are filing this petition for must be physically located in Palm Beach County at the time of filing. 

Then, in response to this petition, the judge may decide to set a hearing that will take place in the following ten days. Both the petitioner and the respondent are required to be at this hearing, which will determine whether assessment is necessary. The judge may also make an emergency or “exparte” order without hearing, which will take effect immediately. 

Then, law enforcement will be authorized to take the person into custody and to deliver them to the nearest Marchman Act receiving facility. This order will be good for the next seven days, unless the judge specifies that it should last for less. 

Then, the facility will have 72 hours to assess the patient. After that, they will release the patient if they do not meet the criteria for involuntary admission, release them for voluntary inpatient or outpatient treatment if the patient is amenable, or file a petition with the court to request involuntary services.

This petition can only be filed by the facility administrator, not the friend or family member who filed the initial petition for examination, and must include the written opinion of two psychiatrists or clinical psychologists, both of whom must have examined the patient face to face. It is also required that the evaluation prove that no less restrictive treatment option could reasonably be expected to improve the patient’s condition.

Another hearing will be set within five days of the filing of this second Petition for Involuntary Services, and the judge will assign the defendant a public defender unless they have a private attorney. One of the examining psychiatrists must provide testimony, and both sides can call any other witnesses that they wish to. 

Then, if the judge chooses to grant this petition, they will order that the defendant be retained at the facility that assessed them or transferred to a different one that is more appropriate to their needs. They will be ordered to remain in treatment for a period of up to 90 days, and the facility will have the option of filing an additional Petition for Involuntary Services for an extension of the order if they believe the patient requires any additional services. 

The ordered treatment can be inpatient or outpatient, and can only be required based on substance abuse, and not based on another mental health issue (in which case the Baker Act may be more appropriate.) It also cannot interfere with or substitute individual’s existing mental health treatment. 

It’s also worth noting that even inpatient treatment centers are not locked down facilities, so a defendant may choose to leave treatment of their own accord, though they will be risking legal consequences and even jail time if they choose to do so. In this case, a defendant may be ordered back to court for a  hearing that will determine whether they are found in contempt. 

You should also be aware that it will not be the court’s responsibility to find a bed and a receiving facility, or to pay for treatment. A Marchman Act petition also cannot interfere with a criminal case, be used to locate a missing person, or be used solely to make a child obey their parents, though parents can file on a child’s behalf.

For more information about what you can expect and what will be expected of you as you navigate the Marchman Act process, as well as how one of our skilled intervention counselors can guide you through the emotionally fraught proceedings, feel free to contact our helpline anytime at 833-497-3808, or to contact us online anytime here.