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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Criminal Defense / How Does Florida’s Marchman Act Apply To Drug Offenders?

How Does Florida’s Marchman Act Apply To Drug Offenders?


Florida is the U.S. state with some of the harshest drug-related sentences in the nation, mostly due to its past history with both illegal drugs smuggled in, and prescription “pill mills” operating with the pretense of legality. As such, if a person is arrested and charged with a drug offense, their status as a drug or alcohol addict may or may not have any real bearing on the offense. However, sometimes a court will hold that treatment is a better sentence than jail. Florida’s Marchman Act allows courts to involuntarily commit those who are ‘out of control’ with regard to their addiction.

Marchman Act Is Civil, Not Criminal

The Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act is a Florida state law that allows the involuntary commitment of someone who is either too incapacitated to consent to treatment, or has “lost the power of self-control” with regard to substance abuse. This may seem draconian, but the Florida legislature expressed in the text of the law that in some situations, this is the path that will cause the least harm to the individual and to society as a whole.

Once under the aegis of the Act, a person will generally be required to complete substance abuse treatment before the hold will be released. However, some do refuse to comply, for which they may face civil contempt charges. (A civil contempt charge differs from a criminal contempt charge in that a civil contempt charge is brought to coerce a person to comply with a court order; a criminal contempt charge is usually designed to be punitive.)

Civil Confinement Does Not Replace Criminal Penalties

While confinement under the Marchman Act is civil, not criminal in nature, sometimes the law does interact with Florida’s criminal court system in a major way. If a person is found with a quantity of illicit drugs on their person, they may be confined under the Marchman Act, but this does not replace a jail sentence if they are found guilty of a drug crime. Once a person has completed drug treatment, they will still often be placed on trial if their crimes warrant it.

For example, someone arrested with 5 grams of fentanyl on their person might be committed under the Marchman Act if they are “incapable of consent to treatment” or otherwise showing signs of severe addiction, but they would still potentially face the 3-year prison sentence if convicted of trafficking in fentanyl once their treatment was complete. Substance abuse treatment may improve one’s quality of life, but they will still (potentially) have an offense for which to answer.

Call A West Palm Beach Drug Offenses Attorney

Substance use can quickly spiral into abuse for many people. There is help out there – but if you have committed a drug-related offense, Florida law enforcement will still take it very seriously. A West Palm Beach criminal attorney from Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can help protect your rights and answer any questions you may have. Contact our office today at (561) 721-0552 to speak to an attorney.



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