In ideal circumstances, anyone with a substance use disorder would seek treatment for it. Unfortunately, many people who struggle with drug addiction and dependence don’t acknowledge that they have a problem or don’t think they need professional assistance with recovery. Furthermore, they sometimes aren’t able to make decisions about their health.
Is it possible to force a family member or friend into a program for drug rehabilitation? In Florida, the Substance Abuse Impairment Act, also known as the Marchman Act, covers this painful situation and lays down its legal rules.
If your spouse, child, relative, or friend is refusing treatment for drug addiction, you may assume that involuntary commitment is the only way to save their life. It’s not a decision that’s undertaken lightly, and it’s often the last resort. Because of protections to individual freedom, it’s also not possible in every case. The following are some commonly asked questions about the Marchman Act:
What’s the Standard for Involuntary Commitment to a Rehab Program in Florida?
Contrary to your opinion, the Marchman Act doesn’t apply to everyone who refuses addiction treatment. For example, let’s say your spouse has a drinking problem, but they deny it. You point out their behaviors, such as the amount they drink each day, but they tell you to leave them alone. Their refusal to admit to the problem and seek help isn’t a sufficient basis for involuntary rehab.
To petition for their involuntary commitment, you need to prove that their substance use impairs them to the extent that they’ve lost control over it. You need to demonstrate that they can’t make rational decisions about addiction treatment or that they pose a physical threat to themselves or others. This is the basic standard for involuntary commitment to a rehab program in Florida.
Does your loved one meet the criteria for impairment and loss of control? It’s advisable to discuss the situation with a lawyer and seek input from a licensed professional who works in addiction treatment.
Under the Marchman Act, Who Can Petition for Someone’s Involuntary Commitment?
Along with establishing provisions for medical providers and police officers, Florida’s Substance Abuse Impairment Act allows a guardian, spouse, or relative to petition a court for an individual’s involuntary commitment to treatment.
If you’re a friend or another adult unrelated to the individual, you can’t petition the court yourself. The law, however, allows for three adults to submit a petition together. All three need to demonstrate firsthand knowledge of an individual’s substance use and the associated dangerous or out-of-control behaviors. If you haven’t witnessed the behaviors yourself, you can’t participate in this legal action; secondhand knowledge isn’t enough.
What if the individual is a minor? In that case, a parent or legal guardian may submit a petition. Three friends or other adults familiar with the situation aren’t able to bring the matter to court.
When Filing a Petition, What Are Your Responsibilities?
To ensure that you aren’t skipping any steps or making critical mistakes with your paperwork, it’s essential to consult with a lawyer. Your lawyer will also help you prepare for any court appearances, and they’ll review your evidence to check that it meets the standards for this kind of legal action.
It’s your responsibility to gather evidence and witnesses. The statements in your petition and any additional testimony you provide must be truthful. Otherwise, you face the threat of perjury charges.
The court where you file the petition needs to be located in the county where your family member or friend currently lives. Sometimes, this requirement presents problems. Your loved one may not have a stable home or any home at all, and you may struggle to provide the court with a valid address where they can be found. Furthermore, if they’re located in a Florida county far from you, it won’t be convenient for you to file your petition and appear in court.
It’s also your responsibility to ensure that there’s a rehab facility willing to accept your family member or friend. If they wind up involuntarily committed, they’ll need to have a place secured at a specific program. It would help if you made this arrangement before filing the petition. Determine how much you’ll have to pay and how much will be covered through insurance or other funding sources.
What Happens After You File the Petition?
Once your petition is notarized and filed, a judge will review it. If they accept it, they will issue an Ex Parte order or call for a hearing.
An Ex Parte order applies to situations that are considered an emergency. Law enforcement will pick up your family member or friend and take them directly to the treatment facility, where they will undergo an evaluation.
If a situation doesn’t meet the criteria for an Ex Parte Order, the judge will set a hearing. Your family member or friend will be summoned to court, and they’ll be entitled to legal representation. You’ll also be required to appear, and your lawyer will be able to present your case. If the court rules favor your petition, the judge will order your loved one to go to the designated treatment facility for an evaluation. This assessment generally takes no longer than five days.
After giving your loved one an evaluation, the facility may request an order of involuntary treatment from the court. The treatment period generally won’t exceed 60 days. What happens afterward? In some cases, it will be possible to file for renewal and an extension of rehab services.
Why Do Petitions Get Rejected?
The judge reviewing your petition may decide that you haven’t presented strong enough evidence to prove that your family member or friend needs involuntary treatment. Forced rehab is a drastic step, and it demands robust evidence that’s presented convincingly.
Other times, your petition may not be rejected for lack of a strong case. Instead, there may be other obstacles. For example, you may not have been able to keep a spot open at a treatment facility, or you may not have the means to pay for treatment services. Even if your loved one is struggling badly, the court may decide against ordering involuntary rehab.
What Are the Drawbacks to Involuntary Treatment?
Attempting to force rehab on a loved one is a desperate measure, and it’s a complicated process that doesn’t necessarily lead to a positive outcome.
The petition you file or the court hearing you attend may prove unsuccessful. Even if the court rules favor an evaluation, your loved one may get discharged after only a few days. If they’re kept for treatment, the rehab facility may not be a good match for what they currently need, and it may not adequately help them. Furthermore, if they resist court orders, they risk criminal penalties.
Attempting to press involuntary rehab on a family member or friend may cause irreversible damage to your relationship. They may consider your actions a profound betrayal and lose trust in you. If you feel that your loved one’s life is in danger, you may decide to proceed anyway and face the potential risks, including losing the relationship.
Another question is whether involuntary treatment can prove effective. If someone isn’t going into rehab willingly and with a conviction that they need to change, can treatment services even help them?
Much depends on the quality of the rehab facility. After an initial period of stabilization and assessment, the facility’s staff may be able to exert a positive influence on your family member or friend, who may become more receptive to treatment. Some programs can also provide services or high-quality referrals to people with depression, post-traumatic stress, or other issues that frequently co-occur with addiction.
Ultimately, it’s preferable to try to convince your loved one to seek treatment voluntarily. Petitioning for involuntary treatment should be undertaken only in certain circumstances, and you need to be prepared for the potential drawbacks.
If you have additional questions about addiction treatment for someone you care about, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Located in Palm Beach County, we offer a variety of evidence-based treatments, and we tailor our approach to each individual.