Monday, September 12, 2011

A Family Guide to the Florida Marchman Act

Let me introduce myself. My name is Raymond G. Ferrero III, Esq. I am a Partner and Director of Addiction Recovery Legal Services, LLC of Florida, the Executive Director of Heath Affairs for Nova Southeastern University’s Health Professions Division and Gubernatorial Appointee for the Florida Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Committee.

It is my great pleasure to be writing this brief overview of the Florida Marchman Act on behalf of myself and law partner Alan S. Levine, Esq. For over a decade, we have been actively involved with South Florida’s Marchman Act Court and firmly believe that the Marchman Act is a families greatest resource and tool for addressing substance use and abuse within the family unit.

The Florida Marchman Act is a law that was written to provide those in need with confidential, court ordered and monitored drug and alcohol assessment, stabilization and treatment. Although the Florida Marchman Act is not limited to simply addressing substance abuse issues for juveniles and adolescents, I will - for the purpose of this discussion - review the Florida Marchman Act as it would be applicable and utilized by parents and primary caregivers.

What is the Florida Marchman Act?

Most simply put, the Florida Marchman Act is a civil procedure that allows the friends or family of someone who is substance abuse impaired to confidentially petition and ask the court to help them address their loved one's substance abuse problem.

Based upon this petition, the court can issue an order that requires the impaired individual to enter into a court supervised and monitored, drug and alcohol intervention, assessment, stabilization and/or treatment. The key to this court order is that the impaired individual must comply with the court supervised drug and alcohol intervention, assessment, stabilization and/or treatment. The individual has no choice in the matter. Even if the individual has refused to get voluntarily help in the past for their substance abuse problem, under the Florida Marchman Act they cannot refuse such help once the court order has been put into place.

Under the Florida Marchman Act, if the individual refuses to comply with the court order, they subject themselves to court sanctions and punishment - including jail time! However, it should be noted that the intention of the Marchman Act court is to provide treatment, not punishment. A family member should not fail to file a Marchman Act petition out of concern that they are subjecting their loved one to interaction with law enforcement.

What is the history of the Florida Marchman Act?
The Marchman Act was passed in 1993 by the Florida Legislature and is officially entitled the Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services Act of Florida. The Marchman Act was named after Hal S. Marchman, a pastor and lifelong advocate for the rights of alcoholics and drug addicts throughout Florida. Hal S. Marchman is most widely recognized worldwide as the Chaplain of the Daytona International Speedway, who gave the invocation at the beginning of every race for 42 years before retiring at the age of 85. Hal S. Marchman passed in October of 2009 in Daytona, Florida.

Why did the Florida Legislature draft and enact the Florida Marchman Act?

Florida is an extremely progressive State that recognizes the growing trend of substance abuse across the Nation and the need of the government to play a role in addressing the consequences that addiction has upon society as a whole.

Specifically, Florida Statute §397.305 recognizes:

Substance abuse is a major health problem and leads to such profoundly disturbing consequences as serious impairment, chronic addiction, criminal behavior, vehicular casualties, spiraling health care costs, AIDS, and business losses, and profoundly affects the learning ability of children within our schools and educational systems. Substance abuse impairment is a disease which affects the whole family and the whole society and requires specialized prevention, intervention, and treatment services that support and strengthen the family unit.

When should a parent begin to consider filing a Marchman Act petition?

A parent should consider filing a Marchman Act petition if they suspect their child may be using or abusing drugs or alcohol. This may be a very difficult decision for a parent. Often, parents are unsure if their child is using or experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol. Often, parents do not want to get their children involved with the court system.

To address these concerns, a parent must consider that even if they are not exactly sure what may be going on with their child, if they suspect substance use or abuse, the Marchman Act is a wonderfully effective tool to determine what is actually going on. More so, the Florida Marchman Act is a confidential and a civil procedure unlike the criminal court system. Filing a Marchman Act petition has no effect upon a child’s personal record because it is not criminal in nature. In fact, there is no record. The intent of the Florida Marchman Act is treatment, not punishment.

I always advise clients who are unsure whether to file a Marchman Act Petition to recognize that it is far better to uncover and address a potential substance abuse problem in a confidential, civil environment, then it is to allow the problem to persist and allow the child to risk being thrown into the criminal arena for an arrest due to drug use, possession or associated criminal activity. It is unwise for a parent to fail to take a proactive approach when it comes to suspected drug and alcohol use. Don’t simply wait, hoping that things will somehow get better.

What elements must be demonstrated for the court to grant a Marchman Act petition?

A court may grant a Petition for Involuntary Assessment, Stabilization and/or Treatment, if it is determined that there is a reasonable belief that the child is substance abuse impaired and the child:

(a) has lost the power of self control with respect to substance use; and either
(b) has inflicted or is likely to inflict physical harm on him/herself or others unless admitted; or
(c) the person's judgment is so impaired they are incapable of appreciating the need for care and making a rational decision regarding such care; or
(d) the person has refused to seek voluntary care.

The Florida Marchman Act

2009 (c)Raymond G. Ferrero III, Esq.

ARLS - Addiction Recovery Legal Services, LLC
888 South Andrews Avenue, Suite 203
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

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