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Marchman Act: What is it and how is it used?
The Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993, or more commonly referred to as the “Marchman Act,” is a law that authorizes Florida courts to require emergency evaluation and treatment assistance for individuals suffering from serious alcohol and drug issues. A Marchman Act proceeding is typically initiated by certain family members or loved ones who are close to a person that needs alcohol and/or drug treatment. Florida law recognizes that a substance abuse issue needs to be addressed as an emergency or the consequences can be dire. Untreated substance abuse almost always leads to one of three places: jail, institutions, or death. But an addict can become free from substance abuse. Sometimes it just takes someone like you to step up and act because the addict can’t do so on their own.
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Why is OLDER LUNDY KOCH & MARTINO uniquely suited for Marchman Act cases?
A Marchman Act case is about addressing a serious substance abuse and addiction problem. These cases are intensely personal and emotional. One of our Founding Partners, Benjamin Older, has almost 20 years of experience dealing with these issues, and because of this, he addresses you personally and directly here.
In no other area of my practice does my title “Benjamin Older, Attorney and Counselor at law” ring truer than when I handle a Marchman Act case. As an attorney at law, I will represent you through the entire Marchman Act process. But you are also here (whether know it yet or not) to seek my help as a counselor at law. Using the Marchman Act to get an addict into treatment requires not only a knowledge of the law itself, but a deep understanding of the addict’s mentality, behavior, and the destructive ripple effect the addict causes in the lives of his or her friends and family. You need a lawyer who can see the whole picture and understand the addict’s mentality, even to the extent these issues exceed the scope of legal proceedings. I understand from a legal, professional, and personal perspective how substance abuse can destroy a person, bring unimaginable pain to their family and friends, and leave a wake of emotional, financial, and legal wreckage. Staying focused on both the how and why will give you the best chance to win your Marchman Act case and get the person you care about the treatment they desperately need.
If you are reading this, it is likely for one of two reasons:
1. You want to help someone in your life who has a substance abuse problem and are considering using the Marchman Act to get that person into treatment. I can help you maneuver through the process (before, during and after) so the person you care about can be free of substance abuse.
2. You have been wrongly accused of having a substance abuse problem and someone is trying to use the Marchman Act process to force you to go to treatment. There can be many reasons someone is misusing the process. Maybe they are just mistaken, maybe they are trying to gain an advantage in a family law or probate case or are retaliating against you in some way. I can help defend you against such a claim and to prevent you from being sent to treatment for the wrong reasons.
There are many technical aspects of a Marchman Act case, and my job is to simplify them for you. One of my roles is to make sure you understand all of your options and what I can do to help you with each and every one of them. As time is always of the essence in these situations, I encourage you to call me immediately to discuss the specifics of your situation. Many years of experience tell me you may have one or more of the following questions and I am prepared to answer all of them:
- How do I know if someone has a substance abuse problem?
- What is the difference between addiction and substance abuse?
- If I hire you to bring a Marchman Act proceeding, what will I need to do and what will you do?
- Who pays for treatment?
- Will health insurance cover treatment?
- Will the state appoint a lawyer for the Respondent?
- What evidence do I need to bring to court?
- What happens if the Respondent does not follow the Court’s order?
- Can a minor be the subject of a Marchman Act?
- The Respondent told me that if I try to make them go to treatment they will (never speak to me again, run away, divorce me, disappear, hurt themselves, hate me forever, etc.). I’m afraid they mean it. How do I deal with that?
- I want to send our minor child to treatment, but my spouse doesn’t agree (won’t back me up). Can I do it on my own?
- How do I find a treatment center that the Court will approve in an Order?
- If I can’t pay for treatment, are there state-run facilities and what are they like?
- How does the Court make sure that the Respondent completes treatment?
- How long can the Court order treatment to last?
- Who monitors the Respondent’s progress and reports to the Judge?
- Can more than one person sign the Petition?
- How hard is this really to do on my own?
- The potential Respondent has been or is currently under a “Baker Act” Order. Does that matter?
- I have never used the Marchman act before, but the potential Respondent has already been to treatment, and they left early, it didn’t work, they relapsed, etc. Why bother having a Judge order it again?
- I’m in the process of getting divorced from the potential Respondent, can I still file a Marchman Act Petition?
- In what county can I file a Marchman Act Petition?
- What if the potential Respondent has psychological problems whether diagnosed or not?
- If the Respondent has a prescription medication, can the Court determine that they are abusing it?
- What if I think that the Respondent has been “overprescribed” medication from a doctor?
- How long is the process going to take?
- Do you only help with the legal process, or can you guide me through everything else involved?
- How much do you cost to take on my case?
If you are choosing to use the Marchman Act to help someone do what they can’t do for themselves, you are making the right choice. There is a misconception that someone must “want to go to treatment” for it to work. That is not true. I have seen countless people go into treatment unwillingly only to come out sober and have amazing, fulfilling, and healthy lives afterward. But the legal system can be difficult to maneuver without expertise.
I truly understand what you are going through. You have probably tried to talk and reason with the addict, but it hasn’t worked. You have tried everything you can think of. And you certainly have experienced at least one or more of these things:
- You have fought with them, begged them to get help, threatened them with consequences if they don’t get help or even cut yourself off from them completely.
- You are losing sleep over it (if you can sleep at all).
- You are fighting with the loved ones around you because of the stress this is putting on you.
- The addict has said they don’t have a problem, or they can deal with it on their own.
- If they are living in your home, you live in a state of constant anxiety, never knowing what drama is around the corner.
- They have promised they will “get it under control” or stop altogether, only to break those promises countless times.
- They have stopped abusing substances for a while, only to start again.
- They have already been to an in-patient substance abuse treatment center, left before the treatment center recommended it and went back to their substance abuse.
- They completed treatment but didn’t follow up with aftercare recommendations and went back to their substance abuse.
- Even though they “successfully completed” a treatment program they went back to their substance abuse.
- They may suffer from depression or a bi-polar disorder in addition to their substance abuse.
- They have completely lost the ability to manage their own lives already, or maybe they are clearly on their way there.
- They can’t keep a job or are failing in school.
- They are stealing from you or others.
- They are a parent who has put their young children in harm’s way.
The list goes on and on. You probably cannot understand why this person can’t admit to the problem and just use willpower to stop their substance abuse. But there is a reason…pure force of will, alone, cannot solve this problem. A person who is a substance abuser is a person with an illness. Willpower cannot cure an illness. They are no more able to cure themselves by sheer will than a person with cancer could. Substance abuse is like cancer, the addict must receive treatment to get better. The Marchman Act is designed to get an addict the treatment they need.
The bottom line is this: you know in your heart that if this person does not stop abusing substances, then something terrible, and probably permanent, is going to happen. The good news is that no matter what has already happened in the past, anyone can stop abusing substances and turn their life around. Picture a life where the stress and turmoil of substance abuse is behind you all. It can be a reality, you just may need to use the tool that Florida has provided, the Marchman Act, to get there.