Who Can File A Marchman Act?

Who Can File A Marchman Act?

If you’ve stumbled upon this site and read any of the other marvelous resources that we provide about Florida’s Marchman Act, you may already know that the statute allows for the involuntary commitment of someone whose impairment due to a substance use disorder has rendered them “unable to make rational decisions regarding treatment.” 

The Marchman Act also applies if someone who is impaired due to substance abuse has inflicted or attempted to inflict harm to themselves or to others. 

Now, there is a lot more fine print to the law than that, and its full text can be found on the official website for Florida’s legislature here if you’d like to look into the nitty gritty details.

But one thing that is relatively straightforward about the Marchman Act is the matter of who has the power to file it, and the thankfully short answer to that question is “almost anyone,” with a few notable qualifications. 

While you will have an easier time if you are the spouse, relative, or guardian of the person that you would like to enact a Marchman Act petition to protect, that is not the only way that the law offers concerned loved ones you to go about the matter.

If you have one of those first degree connections to the person who you seek to commit, you can serve as the sole petitioner for them, as can you if you are the parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian of a child under eighteen. 

But if you have some other relationship to the person you believe needs involuntary commitment due to their substance abuse, there’s no need to fear. Three unrelated adults who need not have any particular professional or personal association with the patient but who have “personal knowledge of a person’s substance abuse impairment,” can also file a Marchman Act petition. 


So, these three people could be friends, teachers, co-workers, non-spouse significant others, or really anyone to the patient, as long as all three are willing to go on the record and put in the work to testify as to the patient’s need for involuntary commitment due to their impairment from substance abuse. 


Medical professionals who have certain relationships to the patient who is impaired by substance abuse can also enact an emergency Marchman Act petition. These include the person’s therapist, their physician, or the director of a facility licensed under Chapter 397, Florida Statutes for the purposes of providing care and treatment for patients with substance abuse illnesses or his or her designee. 


Finally, a law enforcement officer who witnesses a patient exhibiting a need for substance abuse treatment “in a public place” or “in a way that attracts the officer’s attention,” can have them placed in protective custody for further evaluation under the Marchman Act. 


Calling law enforcement on someone who is behaving in this manner in the hopes of them initiating Marchman Act proceedings should be an absolute last resort, but, in certain cases, it may be an effective method of getting your loved one into treatment. 


In this sort of high stakes situation, it’s possible that the Baker Act may also apply. The Baker Act is another Florida statute dealing with involuntary commitment, but it generally covers a need for treatment relating to mental illness rather than relating to substance abuse. 


However, since mental illness and substance abuse can so often overlap, the Baker Act may sometimes be appropriate for someone whose impairment due to substance abuse has made them an immediate danger to themselves or others.


While a Baker Act can technically be filed directly to the court, it is much more commonly enacted by law enforcement officers, medical professionals, and mental health professionals who observe a patient’s potentially life threatening behavior. 


So, if you request the assistance of one of these professionals, most likely by calling emergency services, you may be able to play an important part in making them aware of the situation and ensuring that a Baker Act is enacted if it is necessary. 


Someone cannot be held under the Baker Act for as long as they can under the Marchman Act, but it could still be an important measure in keeping someone safe if they pose an immediate danger to themselves or others and an important first step in obtaining further treatment for them. 

If you have any questions about this information or about the Marchman or Baker Acts more generally, feel free to get in touch with one of our skilled intervention counselors. While there are never any guarantees in a situation as fraught as one that calls for the filing of a Marchman Act petition, we can guide you through the process to the best of our ability and give our all to ensure that you get the help you need. Call 833-497-3808 to learn more today.