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Baker Act and Marchman Act backgrounder

Florida citizens who might harm themselves or others may be held involuntarily for assessment up to 72 hours. The statute for mental illness is called a Baker Act. For substance abuse, it is called the Marchman Act. The specific criteria to commit someone under a Baker Act are:

  • A person refuses examination, or is unable to determine if he/she needs examination, AND
  • There is substantial likelihood of personal harm through self-neglect or refusal to care for oneself, which cannot be avoided with the help of family, friends, or other services; OR
  • There is substantial likelihood the person will cause harm to self or others in the near future

Marchman Act criteria are similar:

  • A person is at risk of harm to self or others and
  • Is not able to make a rational decision about the need for services due to substance use

Who can file?

The Baker Act law empowers physicians, psychiatric nurses, psychologists, clinical social workers, mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists to initiate an involuntary Baker or Marchman act placement. These professionals must decide if the person meets the legal criteria based on their examination of the person within the last 48 hours.

Under the Marchman Act, only licensed physicians or law enforcement officers can initiate an emergency, non-court-ordered admission. Physicians must base Marchman admission on examination and assessment within the last five days. The laws permit law enforcement to initiate Baker and Marchman Act commitments. Law officers are not required to directly observe behavior or hear intent to harm themselves or others. Officers may act based on observations of other credible people. Officers file report on the circumstances in which people are taken into custody and transport them to the nearest hospital or behavioral health crisis unit.

If you are not a law officer or health professional, giving officers a signed, written statement detailing your observations may be helpful—especiawellness professionallly if the person changes his or her statements when police arrive.

Wellness professionals may call to refer clients or begin a consultation by phone. On-site crisis consultation is available through our Mobile Crisis Response Team. A Mobile Crisis team response can also trigger 30 days case management through Gracepoint's IMPACT program.