The Baker Act and the Florida Marchman Act are two involuntary statutes for people with mental illnesses, addictions, and dual diagnoses. These laws vary in how long they can detain a person involuntarily, why they are applied, and how they can be enforced.
Almost every state in the United States has some form of compulsory treatment legislation that allows certain facilities to require psychiatric or substance abuse treatment for a child, adolescent, or adult.
In Florida, these controversial laws are known as the Baker Act and the Marchman Act, both of which have been around for decades. Although the two laws are similar, they are not the same.
What is the Bakers Act?
Florida's Baker Act is a compulsory institutionalization law that applies to mental health crises when a person is determined to pose an imminent danger to themselves or others.
According to the University of South Florida's Baker Act Reporting Center, the Baker Act was applied 211,000 times from July 2018 to June 2019.
The Florida Baker Act's inclusion criteria include:
- the person is showing signs of mental illness
- the person refuses a voluntary mental health assessment or does not seem to understand why it would be necessary
- the person is seen as an imminent threat to themselves or others or is unable to take care of themselves (self-neglect)
The Florida Baker Act may order the detention of a child, juvenile or adult in a Baker Act detention facility for up to 72 hours.
To whom does the Bakers Act apply?
Anyone, including a child, can be classified as a Baker Act by police, a doctor or a psychologist if they meet the criteria.
The baker's law is often used for people who:
- are suicidal (i.e. have a plan and purpose)
- have a plan to harm yourself (self-harm)
- has expressed a genuine intention to harm another person
Most people who are Baker Acted are adults over the age of 18. Despite this, this law is increasingly being used to involuntarily conscript children, often in schools.
Almost a fifth of the people Baker trafficked in Florida are children, including children as young as five or six.
Who can form a Baker Act?
The Baker Act can be initiated by a judge, a law enforcement officer, or certain healthcare professionals such as a doctor, mental health counselor or psychiatrist.
Law enforcement officials, including school resource officials, initiate more than half of all Baker Acts in the state, according to Baker Act Reporting data.
Physicians who are not psychiatrists are the most commonly initiated type of healthcare professional, followed by mental health counselors, psychiatrists, and licensed clinical social workers.
What is Marchman's law?
The Florida Marchman Act is similar to the Baker Act, with the main difference being that it applies to crisesSubstance abuse or chemical dependency, not insanity.
This provides emergency assistance and the temporary and involuntary detention of adults or children who need evaluation and treatment for substance use.
Florida Marchman Act initiation criteria include:
- the person is unable to control their substance use
- the person has declined a voluntary assessment
- the person has harmed (or is likely to harm) themselves or another person unless accidentally admitted
- It is believed that the person is unable to make rational decisions to decide for themselves the need for treatment
Who can initiate the Marchman Act?
The Marchman Act is usually initiated through a petition process. This requires that a person wishing to initiate the Marchman Act file a petition in the local district court.
Who can submit a Marchman Act petition:
- family member
- three unrelated adults with knowledge of the person's disability
In emergency situations such as a drug overdose, a police officer or doctor can also invoke the Marchman Act.
How long can you be detained under the Marchman Act?
Unlike the Baker Act, which can institute psychiatric confinement for 72 hours, the Marchman Act can institute involuntary confinement in an inpatient facility for up to five days.
After those five days, a person incarcerated under the Marchman Act may be committed by a court to an inpatient treatment facility for 60 to 90 days, with an application for an extension.
What about people with co-occurring disorders?
People with co-occurring disorders, that is,both a mental illness and a substance use disorder– may be committed unintentionally under the Marchman Act.
How to Apply for Involuntary Commitment in Florida
The processes for initiating an involuntary obligation under the Marchman Act differ from the obligation process under the Baker Act. Here is a basic overview of both processes.
The Baker Act Trial
What the Baker Act process looks like may depend on the petitioner.
If a person is deemed to be experiencing a mental health crisis, there are three main ways in which the Baker Act can be invoked:
- Contacted the police to invoke the Baker Act
- Call the person's therapist, doctor, or psychiatrist to invoke the Baker Act
- apply for the Bakers Act through a unilateral order in court
Under the Baker Act, a person may be transported, voluntarily or involuntarily, to a Baker Act residential reception facility. For example, a psychiatric inpatient facility.
After admission, the person must undergo a psychological examination within 72 hours. If it is determined that the person poses no danger to themselves or others, they will be released at the end of those 72 hours.
Individuals who are determined to pose a danger to themselves or others may be voluntarily or involuntarily admitted to an inpatient mental health treatment program.
Adults over the age of 18 can also be treated on an outpatient basis. However, this is rarer than a court order for hospital treatment.
The Marchman Trial
Under the Marchman Act, a person with a significant disability as a result of drug use may be taken into emergency custody on the order of the police or a doctor.
More commonly, however, the Marchman Act is enforced through the petition process by a family member or other loved one. This requires a complaint to be filed with the district court.
Step 1: Contact a lawyer and a psychologist
Before filing a petition, it is strongly recommended that family members consult a mental health professional, such as a counselor or interventionist, and an attorney before filing a petition to invoke the Marchman Act.
This can help loved ones prepare for the process and ensure all other options, e.g. seek treatment voluntarily – they go out before the involuntary admission process begins.
Step 2: Submit a petition
Family members wishing to file a Marchman Act must file an application in a court in the county where the accused (person affected by the chemical) resides.
To do this, relatives must fill out the relevant petition form, bring a form for self-identification (ie an identity card) and have the address of the respondent.
Step 3A: Wait for a hearing
Once the application is filed, the judge reviews the order and either rejects it or issues an order for a hearing within 10 days.
The local sheriff then sends a notice to the defendant for a court hearing where they can obtain a court order for a drug or alcohol evaluation.
Step 3B: Request an ex parte order
An alternative and expedited option is to obtain an ex parte order. This allows law enforcement agencies to release the accused directly to a reception facility for examination, stabilization, or detoxification without waiting for a hearing.
Step 4: Evaluation
Individuals conscripted, voluntarily or involuntarily, under the Marchman Act may be held in a reception center for assessment and stabilization for up to 5 days.
Step 5: Application for an extension
Most people with substance use disorders need more than short-term stabilization and detoxification to recover from their illness.
Relatives can submit a second application for an extension of the five-day confinement once the initial evaluation by an addiction professional is complete.
The report can then be submitted to the court to request extended treatment if that is the recommendation of the addiction expert who evaluated the accused.
After that, a person may receive involuntary court-ordered treatment at a rehabilitation center for an additional 60 to 90 days.
Seeking treatment for a loved one with mental illness or addiction
The decision to seek involuntary treatment for a loved one with a mental illness or substance use disorder can be one of the most difficult decisions a person makes.
If you need helpSeeking treatment for a loved one with a mental disorder, addiction, or dual diagnosis in Florida, call our hotline today for more information.
Written by himEditing of Addiction Resources
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- Florida Department of Children and Families: Substance Abuse and Mental Health
- Florida Marchman Act - General information about the Florida Marchman Act
- Southern Poverty Law Center - Costly and Cruel: Thousands of Florida children suffer the harm and humiliation of being involuntarily and often illegally committed to mental health facilities
- Treatment Counseling Center – Florida
- University of South Florida: Baker Act Reporting Center – Berichte | Baker Act-Berichte
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