Attorney for Marchman Act

Marchman Act cases begin when the Petitioner files a Petition for Involuntary Substance Abuse Treatment, claiming that the Respondent meets the requirements for involuntary treatment listed in Section 397.693, Florida Statutes.

The Marchman Act criteria listed in the petition require a good faith belief by the Petition that the Respondent has:

  1. refused to accept voluntary care because their judgment is impaired by virtue of the substance abuse and therefore, they cannot appreciate the need for care;
  2. harmed themselves or others or is likely to do so unless ordered to treatment; and
  3. lost the power of self-control with respect to substance abuse.

After the petition is filed, the court might grant the petition, which triggers a summons being issued. If you were served with a summons to appear in a Marchman Act case, you have the right to hire a private attorney to represent you in court.

You might be asked to consent to involuntary treatment. If you do not consent, the Court will conduct a hearing to determine whether the Substance Abuse Evaluation and Stabilization is necessary.

If the Court determines that an assessment is unnecessary, the case may be dismissed.

On the other hand, the Court might order the assessment and treatment, including in-patient treatment. The assessment may be done on an in-patient or out-patient basis as the Court orders.

Most people without an attorney consent to involuntary treatment without a hearing. Contact an attorney before you decide what to do at the first hearing. Any violation of a court order might result in a “no bond” bench warrant being issued for contempt of court.

After the arrest, the offense is listed as “CONTEMPT OF COURT (ADMIN007) CT OF CRT FTA ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE” and usually includes a notation that provides: “BOND NONE TO BE SET BY JUDGE SCIONTI ONLY.”

Lawyer for Marchman Act Defense in Tampa, FL

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent men and women served with a summons to appear in court for a Marchman Act proceeding. We can help defend you against false allegations and ensure your voice is heard in the courtroom.

If the allegations in the petition are false or exaggerated, we can help you fight for the dismissal of the Marchman Act.

We can also represent you if the Court issues a “no bond” bench warrant for your arrest because you failed to appear in court or submit to intensive outpatient or residential treatment when a bed became available.

The offense is often listed as “ARREST ON FAILURE TO OBEY WRITTEN PROMISE TO APPEAR original bench warrant for case number 21MHXXXXXX (ADMIN023).”

We can also help the Respondent or the Petitioner file a motion to dismiss the Marchman Act.

We can challenge the legality of any order for involuntary treatment and request that the court issue a writ of habeas corpus for your release under Florida Statute § 397.501(9). Alternatively, we can help you file and litigate a motion for early release from involuntary treatment.

We charge $400 for an initial consultation. We typically charge a flat fee of $3,000 to represent the Respondent through the entire process.

Call 813-250-0500.

What Happens in a Marchman Act Case?

After the Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization is filed, a hearing will be within ten days. The petitioner receives notice of the hearing by mail, and the Respondent is served with a copy of the petition and summons by a deputy with the Civil Process Section of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. 

The summons will require you to appear for a hearing on a certain date and time in Courtroom 52A, at 800 E. Twiggs Street, Tampa, Florida 33602.

The summons explains that the Respondent has the right to contest any allegations of substance abuse and to be represented by Counsel. If the Respondent does not hire a private attorney, the Court will appoint counsel.

Based on the evidence presented at the hearing, the court can enter an order for involuntary assessment at a treatment center for up to five days to evaluate and stabilize the patient. So when people ask, “How long can I be held under the Marchman Act for involuntary assessment and stabilization?

The answer is five (5) days for the initial assessment, although the court can sometimes extend the time limit.

For example, if a licensed service provider is unable to complete the involuntary assessment and, if necessary, stabilization of an individual within five days after the court’s order, it may, within the original time period, file a written request for an extension of time to complete its assessment, and shall in accordance with confidentiality requirements, furnish a copy to all parties. § 397.6821.

After the court reviews the initial written assessment, a Petition for Involuntary Treatment for Substance Abuse (Marchman Act) may be filed requesting an order for involuntary treatment for up to 60 days.

What Happens at the Marchman Act Hearing?

At the hearing, the Respondent might be asked to provide a urine sample for testing for the presence of controlled substances in the person’s system.

The Respondent is asked to acknowledge that it is a presumptive test, and if positive or adulterated, it could lead to a requirement for a more controlled and scientific test.

The presumptive drug test results will be entered into the record. The Respondent will then be asked to admit to using the drugs found in their system.

The Respondent might also be asked to “consent” to treatment. If no consent is given, the Court will conduct a hearing and determine whether involuntary treatment should be ordered.

Order Granting Petitioner for Involuntary Treatment (Substance Abuse)


This cause came before this court on a Petition for Involuntary Treatment. The Court, upon listening to testimony and reviewing the findings and recommendation of the qualified professional performing the assessment, makes the following findings:

  1. this Court has jurisdiction pursuant to Section 397.697, Florida Statutes (2019); 
  2. there is clear and convincing evidence to believe that the Respondent meets the criteria for Involuntary Treatment;
  3. the Respondent is substance abuse impaired;
  4. because of that impairment, the Respondent has lost the power of self-control with respect to substance abuse;
  5. the Respondent has either:
    1. inflicted, or is likely to inflict, physical harm on themselves or others unless admitted; or
    2. 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 their need for care and of making a rational decision regarding that need for care.

Based upon the above, it is hereby ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the Respondent shall:

[ ] The Respondent has consented to the Petition for Involuntary Treatment.

[ ] The Court, having heard the evidence presented and being fully advised in the premises, finds as follows:

     [ ] Enter, attend and successfully complete any and all clinically recommended treatment and any aftercare recommended by the treatment provider, abiding by their protocols and requirements.

     Treatment Provider: _________________________

     [ ] While awaiting placement in a residential program, to attend: ________________.

     [ ] Submit to a minimum of ______ random drug screens per week, to include [] alcohol or breathalyzers [ ] synthetic marijuana (spice, K2, etc.)

     [ ] Abstain from all mood altering substances

     [ ] Have a curfew of 24 hours (unless w/petitioner, adult approved by petitioner, work, school, or 30 minute travel time to and from treatment)

     [ ] Psychiatric evaluation/treatment if recommended

     [ ] No contact with:

     [ ] Other:

It is further ORDERED that the service provider ordered above is to provide a summary of progress and recommendation to the Marchman Act liaison no later than one week prior to the hearing as to the Respondent’s progress in the program.

If a summary of progress and recommendation is not provided, the service provider is to attend the Case Review/Renewal hearing scheduled above.

Failure to provide the summary of progress and recommendation or attend the hearing may result in the treatment order not being renewed.

Failure to comply with this court order may result in an Order to Show Cause being issued. This Order to Show Cause could result in your incarceration for contempt of court.

Done and Ordered in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida, this [date].

Order to Transport for Detox

After entering the Order Granting Petition for Involuntary Treatment, the Court might enter an ORDER TO TRANSPORT (MARCHMAN ACT) (often called the “DETOX ORDER”), which might provide:

THIS MATTER having been brought before the Honorable Michael J. Scionti on [date], after considering the facts presented in court and pursuant to Section 397.697, Florida Statutes (2020).

It is ORDERED and ADJUDGED that Respondent be transported by Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office/TransCare Medical Transportation or the Department of Juvenile Justice from the Edgecomb Courthouse located at 800 E. Twiggs St., Tampa, FL, 33602, to:

  • the Juvenile Addictions Receiving Facility located at 8620 N Dixon Ave, Tampa, FL 33604; or
  • the Adult Addictions Receiving Facility located at 2214 E HenryAve, Tampa, FL 33610.

The purpose of the transport is for detoxification or temporary placement in a supervised setting where he/she shall be held until medically cleared, he/she can be re-assessed, or residential placement can be made.

How Information is Provided in a Marchman Act Case

The Petitioner will often be asked to sign an Acknowledgement that provides:

Please be advised that we cannot provide any information as to Marchman Act cases, including case status or court dates, via telephone, email, or fax.

In order to obtain court dates or copies you MUST BE the Petitioner(s), Respondent, or Attorney of Record on the case and MUST COME IN PERSON and provide legal photo identification, current driver’s license, passport, or state issued identification card.

Copies of identification are not accepted.

Sometimes, the Petitioner gets so frustrated with the process that they file a “PRO SE MOTION TO DISMISS MARCHMAN ACT,” which must be sworn. After the motion to dismiss Marchman Act, the court will typically set a hearing on the motion.

Early Release from Involuntary Treatment

An attorney can help you file and litigate a motion for early release from involuntary substance abuse treatment.

The motion for early release from involuntary treatment can be filed at any time before the end of the 60-day involuntary treatment period or before the end of any extension granted pursuant to § 397.6975.

The criteria for early release from involuntary treatment include the following:

  1. The Respondent no longer meets the criteria for involuntary admission and has given his or her informed consent to be transferred to voluntary treatment status;
  2. The Respondent was admitted on the grounds of likelihood of infliction of physical harm upon himself or herself or others, such likelihood no longer exists; or
  3. The Respondent was admitted on the grounds of need for assessment and stabilization or treatment, accompanied by an inability to make a determination respective such need, and either:
    • Such inability no longer exists; or
    • It is evident that further treatment will not bring about further significant improvements in the Respondent’s condition;
    • Respondent is no longer in need of services; or
    • The director of the service provider determines that the individual is beyond the safe management capabilities of the provider.

The qualified professional might also determine that an individual admitted for involuntary treatment is ready for early release for any of the reasons listed in § 397.6971(1).

In those cases, the service provider is required to immediately discharge the individual and must notify all persons specified by the court in the original treatment order as provided in § 397.6971(2).

Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in a Marchman Act Case

According to Florida’s Dependency Benchbook for the Marchman Act, a person involuntarily retained can petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

The Marchman Act bench book explains the process as follows:

At any time, and without notice, an individual involuntarily retained by a provider, or the individual’s parent, guardian, custodian, or attorney on behalf of the individual, may petition for a writ of habeas corpus to question the cause and legality of such retention and request that the court issue a writ for the individual’s release. § 397.501(9).

Bench Warrant for an Arrest in a Marchman Act Case

The Marchman Court Liaison might file a report if it believes the Respondent is “non-compliant.” Based on the report, the court might:

  • take no action;
  • issue an order to show cause;
  • set a hearing;
  • issue a pick-up order for a juvenile; or
  • issue a bench warrant for an adult.

In a Marchman Act case, the court can issue a bench warrant if you fail to appear in court or violate a court order, including an order to complete treatment.

The bench warrant in a Marchman Act case often provides:

This cause came before the Court on [date]  for a Marchman Act hearing or Involuntary Court Status Report and the Court, having determined that the above named Respondent failed to attend a Court Hearing/Comply with the Court’s order and the Court finding that as a result Respondent is unlikely to appear to answer the Order to Show Cause, or comply with the Court’s order, it is therefore

ORDERED and ADJUDGED that All and Singular Sheriffs of the State of Florida are hereby directed to arrest the above named Respondent in your county and thereafter bring the above named Respondent before the Honorable Michael Scionti, Division Z, Courtroom 52A, Marchman Act Division.

It is further DONE and ORDERED at Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida on [date].


No Bond – Bond to be set by Judge Scionti only.

The criminal report affidavit will often list the offense as a violation of Statute 901.31 and list the offense as “ARREST ON FAILURE TO OBEY WRITTEN PROMISE TO APPEAR original bench warrant for case number 21MHXXXXXX (ADMIN023).

Order to Show Cause and Notice of Civil Contempt Hearing

In these cases, the judge will also issue an “ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE AND NOTICE OF CIVIL CONTEMPT HEARING,” which might provide the following:

THIS MATTER came before the Court on _______, on an involuntary court status report/ court status report alleging that Respondent has failed to abide by the Court’s Order for Involuntary Assessment/Stabilization/Treatment by failing to:


Based on the above, it is hereby ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the above named

Respondent shall appear in person on _______ in Courtroom 52A to show cause, if any, why you should not be found in Indirect Civil Contempt of Court.


DONE AND ORDERED________________________________

Circuit Court Judge

Is the State Attorney’s Office Involved in Marchman Act Proceedings?

The State Attorney’s Office is not involved in a Chapter 397 Marchman Act proceeding because it is a private civil involuntary commitment action filed by a private petitioner.

The duties of the State Attorney in Florida are statutory. Stone v. State, 71 Fla. 514, 71 So. 634 (1916). Section 27.02, Florida Statutes, contains no statutory authority for the State Attorney to represent a private petitioner in a private civil involuntary commitment action in which the State is not a party. See Opinion Attorney General Florida 074-53 (1974).

Since there is no specific authority for the State Attorney to represent a private petitioner in a Marchman Act case, such representation is excluded from the State Attorney’s statutory authority. Deen v. Wilson, 1 So. 3d 1179, 1182 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009).

If you received a summons to appear in Court to answer a petition in a Marchman Act case, contact an inexperienced attorney at Sammis Law Firm.

Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your case.

Additional Resources

Marchman Act in Hillsborough County – Visit the website of the Clerk of Court in Hillsborough County to learn more about the Mental Health Department. Photo identification is required for most mental health services. The website explains how to file a Marchman Act petition for involuntary treatment, how long a person will be held for assessment, the best way to submit to treatment voluntarily, or how to contest the allegations.

Marchman Act Policy and Procedure Manual – Visit the website of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit to find the Marchman Act Drug Court Policy and Procedure manual. Learn more about the defining elements, key components, incentives and sanctions, drug testing, eligibility criteria, screening referral process, court staffing, and discharge procedures.

Marchman Act Forms – Visit the website of the Florida Department of Children & Families to find the Marchman Act User Reference Guide (pdf) and other mandatory forms that may NOT be altered, including the CF-MH 4008 Oct 2018: Notice of Voluntary Person’s Right to Request Discharge, CF-MH 4007 Oct 2018: Application for Voluntary Admission for Substance Abuse Services, CF-MH 4006 Oct 2018: Petition for Involuntary Substance Abuse Assessment and Stabilization, CF-MH 4005 Oct 2018: Notification to Court of Withdrawal of Petition for Hearing on Involuntary Substance Abuse Services, CF-MH 4004 Oct 2018: Petition Requesting Extension of Involuntary Substance Abuse Services Order, CF-MH 4003 Oct 2018: Notice of Early Release from Involuntary Substance Abuse Services, CF-MH 4002 Oct 2018: Report of Law Enforcement Officer Initiating Protective Custody, and CF-MH 4057 Nov 2021: Certificate of Professional for Emergency Assessment for Substance Abuse Services.

This article was last updated on Friday, May 26, 2023.