The Marchman Act deals with many aspects of substance abuse. The procedures state that a lay person (known as the petitioner - one who files the petition) may seek a court order requiring a respondent (the person against whom the petition is filed) to submit to substance abuse treatment. This Act provides a two-step procedure for determining whether a person should be subject to an involuntary order requiring substance abuse treatment. The first step would be to petition for involuntary assessment for substance abuse. The respondent's spouse or guardian, any relative, or any three adults having personal knowledge of the respondent's substance abuse impairment may file this petition. If the respondent is a minor, a parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian may file the petition. The Marchman Act also provides that, under emergency conditions, a law enforcement officer or a physician may present a person for admission to a hospital or addictions receiving facility for detoxification and stabilization.
After filing, the petition is served on the respondent. Service is usually affected by the Certified Process Server at no cost to the petitioners and/or officers of the Riviera Beach Police Department.
The 15th Judicial Circuit Clerk of the Court schedules the hearing on the petition for involuntary assessment. The Act requires that the hearing be held within 10 days after the petition is filed. This period will be extended if the petition cannot be served on the respondent after several reasonable attempts.
The petition for involuntary assessment must state facts supporting the relief sought indicating:
The reason the petitioner believes that the respondent is substance abuse impaired.
The reason the petitioner believes that because of such impairment the respondent has lost the power of self-control with respect to substance abuse.
And either: The reason the petitioner believes that the respondent has inflicted or is likely to inflict physical harm on himself or others unless admitted; or
The reason the petitioner believes that the respondent's refusal to voluntarily receive treatment that the respondent is incapable of appreciating his need for care and of making a rational decision regarding his/her need for care. If the respondent has refused to submit to an assessment, such refusal must be alleged in the petition. The petitioner(s) must attend the hearing or the petition will be dismissed. The petitioner(s) should be able to testify as to what they know based on their own personal knowledge to support the allegations of the petition. Under certain circumstances, the petitioner(s) may testify by telephone.
As the result of the hearing, the court either enters an order for involuntary assessment or dismisses the petition. The court may also initiate proceedings under Chapter 394, Florida Statutes (the Baker Act) if the court believes the respondent may injure himself or another due to mental illness other than or in addition to substance abuse impairment.
Section 397.675, Florida Statutes, provides the legal standard to determine whether a person should be ordered for an assessment. That section states an order should be entered if there is good faith reason to believe the person is substance abuse impaired and because of such impairment:
Has lost the power of self-control with respect to substance use;
Has inflicted, threatened or attempted to inflict, or unless admitted is likely to inflict, physical harm on himself of another, or
Is in need of substance abuse services and, by reason of substance abuse impairment, his judgment has been so impaired that he is incapable of appreciating his need for such services and of making a rational decision in regard thereto; however, mere refusal to receive such services does not constitute evidence of lack of judgment with respect to his need for such services.
The order for involuntary assessment normally specifies a facility where the assessment is conducted. The Act allows the respondent to be held at the facility for up to five days to perform the assessment. The order may instruct a law enforcement officer to pick up and deliver the respondent to the facility for the assessment.
Once the assessment is done, the second step under the Act would be to petition for involuntary treatment for substance abuse. This petition is normally filed simultaneously with the petition for involuntary assessment; however, it is not served on the respondent until the court receives the assessment. The discussion above regarding service of the assessment petition applies equally to service of the treatment petition. In addition, the same people described above who may file assessment petitions are also eligible to file treatment petitions. Furthermore, under Section 397.6951, Florida Statutes, the allegations contained in the treatment petition are nearly identical to the assessment petition.
At the hearing, the assessment is reviewed and all other relevant evidence is considered. The Act places the burden on the petitioner to prove by clear and convincing evidence:
The respondent is substance abuse impaired and because of such impairment the respondent has lost the power of self-control with respect to substance abuse; and either
The respondent has inflicted or is likely to inflict physical harm on himself or others unless admitted; or
The respondent's refusal to voluntarily receive care is based on judgment so impaired by reason of substance abuse that the respondent is incapable of appreciating his need for care and of making a rational decision regarding his need for care.
The Act allows the treating facility to request extensions of time to continue treating the respondent when appropriate. The public should be aware that in Palm Beach County there are no secure facilities for substance abuse treatment except for the Sheriff's Drug Farm (which is in Belle Glade for men and the Palm Beach County Stockade for women). In this context, "secure facility" means a facility with authority to physically restrain a person from leaving the premises. Access to the Drug Farm is only through the criminal courts. The civil court, under the Marchman Act, uses its inherent contempt powers to enforce assessment and treatment orders. This means that a person who willfully fails to comply with a court order exposes himself to a jail sentence. The Court does not hesitate to exercise this power when appropriate. Both the petitioner(s) and respondent are entitled to be represented by an attorney during all proceedings under the Act.
The Riviera Beach Community Drug Court Pilot Project - i.e., "Civil Court" established in the Circuit Court of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Florida by Administrative Order No. 6.007-2/93 at the Port Center located at 2051 Martin Luther King Blvd., Suite 116, Riviera Beach, FL 33404 (561) 840-4824 is available to assist in the procedures of the Marchman Act. We provide forms for lay persons to file petitions for involuntary assessment and treatment for substance abuse. Once these forms are completed by the petitioner(s), our staff will facilitate processing of the petition with the Mental Health Division of the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Palm Beach County Courthouse. There is no fee for filing these petitions for residents of Riviera Beach.
Civil commitment hearings are held within 10 days after the petition is filed (per Florida Statutes 397). While our staff cannot provide legal advice, they can guide the petitioner in the steps necessary to initiate proceedings under the Marchman Act.