Key Differences of the Baker Act and Marchman Act

When a loved one of yours is struggling with a substance use disorder and/or a mental illness, watching them go through that struggle can be extremely difficult. Not only do you feel for your loved one and his or her current situation, but you are also dealing with the residual effects of his or her condition. One minute you may be so resentful that all you can feel is anger pulsing through you, while another minute you might be feeling the weight of the sadness of the situation on your shoulders. When you bear witness to your loved one not getting the help that he or she needs, you will do anything to help. And while there are several ways to encourage an individual dealing with a substance use disorder and/or a mental illness, sometimes your loved one needs more than just encouragement.

How to Have Someone Committed for Drug Abuse

Anyone with a loved one who is addicted to drugs would jump at the opportunity to have him or her committed in order to help stop the downward spiral into oblivion, but that is not typically an option for most. There are some instances, however, where people can be involuntarily committed for their drug abuse. 

The evidence that you would need to provide in order to have your loved one committed for drug abuse is going to vary based on the state that you are in. There is not one common involuntary commitment law that spans across the country, rather each state has its own set of required data. In general, however, if you want to have a loved one involuntarily committed for drug abuse, the following is needed:


The individual will need to be examined by a healthcare professional, usually the person’s physician or one who works at the treatment center. If the physician determines that the individual requires involuntary commitment, he/she must provide that documentation along with the petition to commit. It is common in other states for other professionals, such as psychiatrists or psychologists, to provide documentation asserting the need for involuntary commitment. 

The right petitioner

Not just anyone can go and petition for a person to be involuntarily committed for drug use. The petitioner generally has to be someone who is closely connected to the individual, such as his or her spouse, parent, relative, or doctor. Who has the power to put forward a petition such as this is dependent on state laws. 

To sum it all up, in order to have someone involuntarily committed for drug use, you would need to

1) fit the criteria of an appropriate petitioner, and

2) have the medical and/or psychiatric backing from a healthcare professional. Of course, there are several other factors that go into something as serious as an involuntary commitment, but these two factors are mandatory. 

baker act information

information about the marchman act

What is the Difference Between the Baker Act and Marchman Act?

The Baker Act is a Florida law that allows individuals who are experiencing crippling mental illness to be involuntarily committed for examination and treatment. The Marchman Act is also a Florida law but is invoked for individuals who are deeply impaired by a substance use disorder

Each act lasts for different periods of time. For example, when someone is Baker Acted, he or she can only be involuntarily held for 72 hours for an examination. After that, any and all recommended treatment is voluntary and not required by court order. The Marchman Act, however, does require individuals to remain in an involuntary hold for up to five days for examinations and detox. Following that, a judge can order the individual to remain in treatment for up to 60 days, with the potential to follow up that order with another 90 days if deemed necessary. 

Because both acts focus on different concerns, the criteria that need to be met in order to invoke either one varies from one another. An example of this would be that a person who needs to be Baker Acted must be in danger of suffering significant personal harm if not intervened on while someone receiving the Marchman Act must have threatened to inflict harm on him/herself or others due to his or her substance abuse. 

In regards to the petitioners, those who are petitioning for a loved one to be Baker Acted do not have to do much behind the scenes to get the ball rolling, while those who are petitioning for the Marchman Act do. To invoke the Baker Act, the petitioner has to get in touch with a medical or mental health professional to co-sign that their loved one requires intervention as a result of his or her examination. For the Marchman Act, the petitioner has to file a petition and have direct evidence of the person’s inability to manage his or her substance abuse. 

How Does the Marchman Act Work in Florida?

The Marchman Act is focused on the individual’s relationship with self-control and the potential for violence as related to alcohol or substance abuse. The Florida Department of Children states that in order for the Marchman Act to be invoked, an individual must meet the following criteria:

  • Has lost the power of self-control with respect to substance use AND:
  • Has inflicted, or threatened or attempted to inflict, or unless is admitted to inflicting, physical harm on himself or herself or another OR:
  • Is in need of substance abuse services and, by reason of substance abuse impairment, his or her judgment has been so impaired that the person is incapable of appreciating his or her need for such services and of making a rational decision in regard thereto.

The Marchman Act requires significant effort on behalf of the person seeking help for their loved one. If you are looking to invoke the Marchman Act on a loved one, these are the steps you need to take in order to do so:

  • File a petition for involuntary treatment in the county court where the person resides
  • File that petition in good faith and as a person, the court recognizes to do so (The Marchman Act requires that the petitioner be a spouse, blood relative, or a group of three individuals with knowledge of the individual’s substance abuse)
  • You must believe and/or have direct information that the user does not have power of self-control and is likely to harm themselves or others
  • You must provide evidence that the user cannot make rational decisions for him/herself

If you have completed all of these steps and have successfully filed the petition, the court will set a date for a hearing within 10 days. You, as the petitioner, will be mailed information regarding the hearing, while your loved one will be served papers by law enforcement. During the hearing, the court will evaluate the need for involuntary assessment as well as professional addiction treatment to determine their resolution.

How Long Does the Marchman Act Last?

When the Marchman Act is first invoked, the individual struggling with addiction can only be held up to five full days for an initial assessment. This serves as the first stage of the Marchman Act and at this time, the treatment center will work to determine how severe the individual’s addiction is and begins the detox process for him or her. 

Following the initial assessment, a court can order the individual to remain in treatment for up to 60 days. The individual may stay for less time than that, especially if his or her substance use disorder is less severe. However, this treatment order can be extended by the court as long as the request is filed no more than 10 days before the initial order expires. A hearing will be held to determine how much longer the individual remains under the Marchman Act. If more time is deemed necessary, a judge can extend the act for no more than 90 additional days. 

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How Does the Baker Act Work in Florida?

The Baker Act is Florida’s mental health statute that employs emergency treatment (including a temporary hold) for individuals who are impaired due to one or more mental illnesses. For nearly 50 years, Floridians who fit under the criteria of the Baker Act have been Baker Acted. And while this is certainly not something that anyone wants to have to invoke on a loved one, it has and continues to save lives. 

The Baker Act can be invoked only by law enforcement, physicians, mental health professionals, or judges. If you have a loved one who you believe needs to be Baker Acted, you cannot invoke that act on your own. Instead, you have to either involve law enforcement when your loved one is experiencing a mental break, contact his or her doctor or therapist to request the Baker Act, or request an ex parte order in a courtroom which allows the court to hear and rule on the case in the absence of your loved one. 

The Florida Department of Children states that in order for someone to be Baker Acted, he or she must meet the following criteria:

  • There is reason to believe that he/she is mentally ill. This means an impairment of the mental or emotional processes that exercise conscious control of one’s actions or of the ability to perceive or understand reality,
  • Because of his or her mental illness, the person has refused voluntary examination or is unable to determine whether examination is necessary and:
  • Without care or treatment, the person is likely to suffer from neglect resulting in real and present threat of substantial harm that cannot be avoided through the help of others; or this is substantial likelihood that without care or treatment the person will cause serious bodily harm to self or others in the near future as evidenced by recent behavior.

People cannot be Baker Acted if they have mental retardation, a developmental disability, are intoxicated, or are experiencing conditions manifesting from antisocial behavior or substance abuse impairment. 

While the Baker Act is designed to involuntarily commit individuals who are impaired due to mental illness, the Marchman Act works to do the same for those impaired by substance use disorders. That is the primary difference between these two acts, however, there are several more. 

How Long Does the Baker Act Last?

When someone is Baker Acted, he or she cannot be involuntarily held for more than 72 hours. During that time, these individuals will receive a mental health examination from a licensed professional. Baker Acted minors under the age of 18 can only be held involuntarily held for 12 hours, and once that 12 hours has expired, they can then be examined. If the results of the examination prove that there is no further intervention needed, the individual can be released. If it is determined that treatment is necessary, the individual will be asked to voluntarily admit him/herself into treatment or be released with the recommendation to enroll in an outpatient treatment program. 

Involuntary Commitment by State

There are currently 37 out of the 50 states in America that have involuntary commitment laws put in place. The specifics of these laws vary from state to state, however, are all designed to help those who cannot help themselves. 

The states that have involuntary commitment laws for substance use disorder and alcoholism are:

  • Washington
  • California
  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Nebraska
  • Kansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Minnesota
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Wisconsin
  • Mississippi
  • Michigan
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Ohio
  • West Virginia
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania
  • Delaware
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Hawaii
  • Maine

The states that have involuntary commitment laws for alcoholism only are:

  • Montana
  • Rhode Island

Vermont is the one singular state in America that has involuntary commitment laws for substance use disorder only. 

What Happens After and How to Get Inpatient Drug Treatment

Immediately after being Baker Acted or having the Marchman Act invoked, an individual will be involuntarily held for examination. If a person has the Marchman Act invoked on him or her, he or she will be court-ordered to complete a determined number of days in treatment. If someone is Baker Acted, they will only be involuntarily held for up to 72 hours and then they are free to either follow the recommendations provided to them or go back to living their lives. 

If it is determined that your loved one will need inpatient drug treatment, then you will have to find a facility that will be best for him or her. Since you are already connected to the courts, the county, and potentially mental health specialists,  you can easily request referrals for inpatient drug treatment programs from them. This is ideal, as someone who has been involved in this process and who is familiar with your loved one’s case can guide you towards the resources that can help most. You can also search online for inpatient drug treatment in the area. 

When you are searching for treatment, it is important that you consider the following:

  • What types of drug addiction they treat
  • What their accreditations are
  • What their financing options are
  • What services they provide (e.g. detox, mental health services)
  • The professionalism of the facility

You want to consider other specific needs your loved one may have prior to choosing an inpatient program so that you can be sure that he or she gets the appropriate care. 

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