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What is Court-Ordered Rehab?

by Demarco Moore

September 14, 2022
A judge sentences a man to court-ordered addiction treatment

Understanding Involuntary Addiction Treatment

If a person is ordered by a judge to enter addiction treatment, you might think they wouldn’t find it as effective as someone who goes on their own. However, addiction treatment programs are shown to improve the overall health and wellness of those who struggle with drugs or alcohol, regardless of whether admission is voluntary or involuntary. Even after experiencing legal consequences, many people battling addiction don’t seek treatment on their own. 

Contrary to beliefs that often mislabel addiction as a moral failing, substance use disorder (SUD) is a condition where people simply can’t stop using drugs or alcohol despite negative health, social and legal consequences. As a result, they might find themselves confronted with the possibility of losing their freedom, their job or even their parental rights. In some cases, however, judges might offer court-ordered drug or alcohol rehab as a condition of probation, or as a last chance to stay out of jail. Many jurisdictions offer participation in drug courts, where people convicted of non-violent drug offenses may go to treatment as opposed to incarceration. 

States and counties have requirements in place for individuals to be eligible for court-ordered treatment. Once the court orders a participant to enter a treatment program, they must complete treatment under the supervision of the court and show that they’re making progress towards changed behavior. The goal of these programs, commonly known as drug courts, is to help people achieve long-term sobriety and restore their quality of life by reducing substance use, the risk of relapse and rearrests. Whether they complete an inpatient treatment program or attend AA or NA meetings, studies show that when people who struggle with substance misuse remain in treatment longer, they increase their chances of maintaining their sobriety.

What is Court-Ordered Rehab?

Legally-mandated addiction treatment directly impacts the lives of those struggling with SUDs by offering rehab as an alternative to jail or prison time. Research shows that an estimated 65% of the U.S. prison population has an active SUD. While another 20% of the prison population didn’t meet the official criteria for SUD, those individuals were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their crime and would benefit from an alternative path to recovery. 

Drug Courts

Drug courts are programs run by local criminal justice systems. There are more than 3,800 of these recidivism programs across the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Teams of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, social workers and addiction treatment providers work with individuals charged with non-violent crimes. Drug court participants are offered substance use treatment to help them avoid penalties like:

  • Jail
  • Prison
  • Loss of employment
  • Losing the custody of children

Court-ordered rehab programs specifically target adults and juveniles who commit lower-level offenses as a result of drug or alcohol dependency problems, including:

  • Adults charged with or convicted of a crime
  • Youth involved in the juvenile justice system
  • Parents with pending child welfare cases

Individuals recently released from jail or prison can also be legally required to enter a treatment program as a condition of parole or probation.

A man speaks during his court-ordered residential treatment

Drug court participants might be ordered to enter different types of addiction treatment, like inpatient rehab or a 12-Step program.

Meeting the Criteria for Court-Ordered Rehab

Each state’s (or individual county’s) criminal justice system sets the requirements for court-ordered addiction treatment. When a person commits a crime related to drugs or alcohol, different factors play a role in whether a judge or prosecutor offers drug court as an alternative to jail sentences or fines, including:

  • The severity of criminal charges
  • A person’s criminal history
  • What led the person to commit the crime
  • If they have a problem with drugs or alcohol
  • If they show they want to change their behavior

Different Types of Court-Ordered Rehab

Drug court participants might be ordered to enter different types of addiction treatment programs that depend on their charges, the severity of their SUD and individual needs. After an assessment of a person’s condition and charges, a drug court judge might recommend the following treatment programs:

  • Medical Detoxification. Supervised, 24/7 care administered to participants who might be experiencing severe or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
  • Inpatient Rehab/Residential Treatment. Inpatient rehab includes around-the-clock care and supervision at a remote facility. Drug court participants will have a safe and substance-free environment with a structured daily schedule of activities and behavioral health sessions.
  • Intensive Outpatient. Drug court participants have the flexibility of weekly behavioral health appointments aimed at dealing with mental and emotional triggers at the rehab center. They then will be able to return home each night to maintain their daily home and work responsibilities.

Who Pays for Court-Ordered Rehab?

Ultimately, the defendant is responsible for paying for their substance use treatment. Most times, they’re allowed to choose the treatment facility depending on their length of treatment and severity of substance use, as assessed by the drug court. For example, if a judge sentences them to complete a 30-day residential treatment program followed by an intensive outpatient program, the defendant must find a facility offering these levels of care. 

Their family or insurance company can then help them cover the cost of treatment, which can be a long-term investment that improves their overall quality of life. Most rehab centers accept private insurance and may also receive state funding (Medicaid) to help pay for treatment. If you’re sentenced to drug or alcohol rehab and have questions about the cost of a treatment program, call your insurance provider to see if they’ll help you pay for some of, if not all of it.

Learn More About Treatment Options

If you or someone you know struggles to control their drinking or drug use and is looking for an addiction treatment program that fits a court order, call 888-448-0302 to connect with a recovery specialist. The confidential phone line is open 24/7. Learn more about addiction recovery services or the admissions process. 

Click here to see a full list of addiction treatment centers near you.

About the Author

Demarco Moore

Demarco Moore

Demarco is a Middle Tennessee State University graduate. He focuses on addiction recovery-focused content writing and search engine optimization (SEO) at Landmark Recovery.

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