Court-Ordered Rehab: Drug Courts, Jail Alternatives, And More

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on March 17, 2023

Court-ordered rehab is an alternative sentencing option for people with addiction who commit a criminal offense while intoxicated. Learn more about court-ordered rehab, eligibility criteria, types of programs, and how to get court-ordered rehab.

Court-Ordered Drug Rehab Programs

Court-ordered rehabilitation is one way that people with substance use disorders who are arrested or charged with a criminal offense can access drug or alcohol treatment.

Research consistently shows that drug addiction, as well as drug-related crimes such as drunk driving or selling drugs, can affect those who use, their families, and their broader communities.

But incarceration can come at a steep price, emotionally, mentally, and financially. As an alternative to jail or prison time, rehab may be mandated by a court for those who qualify.

What Is Court-Ordered Rehab?

Court-ordered rehab is a form of mandatory drug or alcohol treatment that can be ordered by a judge through a court ruling as an alternative to prison or jail time.

Receiving court-ordered rehab will first require a screening investigation to determine a person’s eligibility. This can be requested by family or loved ones of the person who committed the offense.

Successfully completing court-ordered rehab through a treatment provider or rehab center may result in dropped charges or a removal of the crime from your criminal record.

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Understanding Drug Courts

Mandatory treatment for drug or alcohol addiction is often mandated by a judge through the drug court system. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there are currently over 3,500 drug courts across the United States.

There are three primary populations who encounter the drug court system:

  • adults who are charged or convicted of a crime
  • children or teenagers in the juvenile justice system
  • parents with a drug or alcohol use disorder who have pending child welfare cases

What To Know About Drug Courts

The two primary goals of drug courts are to reduce relapse among people with substance use disorder, and to prevent recidivism—or, repeated crime.

This system recognizes that providing people with substance abuse treatment can more effectively address a person’s substance abuse than incarcerating them in a jail or prison.

Important facts about drug courts:

  • About half of all drug courts in the United States are adult treatment drug courts.
  • Drug court programs are managed by multidisciplinary teams of judges, prosecutors, attorneys, corrections officers, as well as social workers and treatment providers.
  • Drug court programs have multiple components, including judicial interaction, a needs assessment, monitoring, and drug or alcohol treatment services.

What Are The Benefits Of Court-Ordered Rehab?

Voluntarily seeking treatment for substance abuse, before a crime occurs, is ideal.

When this is not the case, however, and someone is charged or convicted with a crime, court-ordered rehab can be an effective alternative to ensure people are able to access help.

Benefits of court-ordered rehab can include:

  • reduced risk of relapse
  • reduced risk of recidivism (repeated crime)
  • same or higher treatment retention
  • same or higher treatment completion rate
  • ability to remain at home and receive outpatient treatment
  • can address root causes of the substance abuse
  • acquiring life skills for an addiction-free future

Completing court-ordered treatment for a substance abuse-related offense can also result in dropped charges, as well as a removal of the crime from their criminal record.

This typically applies for first-time offenders or those who have had few interactions with the criminal justice system.

When Is Drug Rehabilitation Court Ordered?

Drug rehab may be court-ordered for a number of reasons. This will depend on the details of your case, including your substance use history and any criminal history.

Court-ordered drug rehab is designed specifically for people with drug or alcohol dependence or addiction. But certain criteria for eligibility for this type of program may apply.

Criteria for receiving court-ordered addiction rehab include:

  • the crime was nonviolent
  • no prior history of court-ordered rehab
  • the court believes rehab would be beneficial for the person charged/arrested
  • the offense was directly influenced by drug or alcohol intoxication
  • the person qualifies for a probationary sentence

These are the general criteria for court-ordered rehab. Other criteria, as well as the requirements of a court-ordered drug treatment program, may vary by jurisdiction.

Treatment can be court-ordered by a judge in lieu of or as a supplement to incarceration.

Treatment (not just court-ordered) can be mandated at the following points:

  • at the time of arrest (by a law enforcement officer)
  • during or before arraignment
  • during pre-sentencing
  • as part of a plea bargain
  • as a condition of pretrial release, probation, or parole

What Are The Components Of Court-Ordered Rehab?

Court-ordered rehab programs will often have similar components to rehab programs that are not court-ordered, with some differences.

Generally, people who receive court-ordered rehab will undergo a needs assessment. This allows professionals to put together a treatment plan for the individual that is able to meet their needs.

Components of court-ordered rehab may include:

  • drug detox services
  • behavioral therapy
  • individual drug counseling
  • educational program
  • support groups
  • dual diagnosis treatment (e.g. for co-occurring mental health disorders)
  • psychiatric services
  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • relapse prevention

Types Of Court-Ordered Rehab Programs

There are several types of court-ordered rehab programs. Which program is mandated may depend on local availability, as well as the nature of a person’s substance use.

Court-ordered rehab program types include:

  • accelerated pretrial rehab programs
  • inpatient rehab programs (i.e. residential treatment)
  • outpatient treatment programs
  • educational programs
  • community service programs
  • group counseling programs

Achieving full recovery from addiction typically requires help at multiple levels of care, from detoxification to outpatient treatment and aftercare programs like sober living options.

Does Court-Ordered Rehab Work?

Studies on the outcomes of court-ordered rehab are mixed. In the absence of voluntary treatment, rehab can be an effective alternative to incarceration for people with a substance use disorder.

But seeking treatment for a drug or alcohol problem voluntarily is ideal.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), less than half of those in drug court programs with opioid use disorder receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT)— the most effective treatment for opioid addiction.

If someone is unable or unwilling to seek treatment, however, involuntary treatment mandated through the court system may be an effective solution for those with a serious problem.

What Are The Requirements Of Court-Ordered Rehab?

Unlike voluntary rehab programs, treatment programs that are court-ordered will often have additional requirements for successful completion and diversion from a jail or prison.

Requirements of court-ordered rehab programs can vary according to details of the individual case as well as where you live.

Requirements for court-ordered rehab may include:

  • attending treatment for a predetermined period of time
  • completing drug testing
  • attending treatment a certain number of days or sessions
  • completing court-ordered community service
  • maintaining regular communication with your legal/treatment team

What Happens If You Don’t Complete Court-Ordered Rehab?

Court-ordered rehab is offered as an alternative to prison or jail time under the condition that you complete the program in full and as ordered by the court.

Violating the terms of a court-ordered rehab program, such as non-attendance, being found in possession of drugs, or failing a drug test can carry with it several risks.

Risks of failing to complete court-ordered rehab may include:

  • expensive fees
  • incarceration
  • increased sentencing time
  • harsher court ruling

Violations of a diversion program can occur at any stage of the treatment process, and will send a person back into the court system to face a judge.

Consequences of failing to complete/violating terms of a rehab program may depend on:

  • the type of violation
  • frequency of the violation
  • your criminal history
  • time spent in treatment
  • progress during treatment
  • behavior during treatment
  • age of the individual (i.e. youth vs. adult)

Drug Use And Crime Statistics In The United States

Here you’ll find information about drug use, crime, and the carceral system in the United States.

Drug use rates as of December 2021:

  • Every day, about 28 people in the United States die as a result of drunk driving.
  • In 2019, over 10,000 people in the United States lost their lives as a result of drunk driving—the lowest percentage on-record. Complete data is not yet available for 2020.
  • According to the Drug Policy Alliance, drug offenses are the leading cause of arrest in the United States. The vast majority are for drug possession alone.
  • About 1 in 5 of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States are there for a drug offense.
  • Over half of the total jail and prison population have a substance use disorder.
  • Nearly 25 percent of people in U.S. jails are there for a drug offense. The majority of people in jails have been charged but not yet convicted of a crime.
  • Over 2,100 people in juvenile facilities (or, about five percent of the total youth facility population) are there for a drug offense.
  • Less than one percent of prisons and jails offer medication-assisted treatment (e.g. methadone or buprenorphine treatment) for opioid use disorder.

Court-Ordered Rehab FAQs

Court-ordered rehab can be a tricky process for individuals, family members, and other loved ones to understand. Here are answers to common questions about court-ordered treatment.

Unlike carceral settings, drug and alcohol rehab programs have a primary focus of rehabilitation, healing, and helping people achieve recovery from their drug or alcohol abuse.

Rehab can offer a chance to meaningfully address a serious drug or alcohol problem. Studies show diversion programs like court-ordered rehab can also be cost-saving on a societal level.

Generally, yes. The court does not pay for court-ordered treatment for addiction issues.

However, those who are ordered to attend rehab will often have the opportunity to choose the treatment provider or rehab facility from which they receive their treatment.

The cost of treatment within a court-ordered rehab program may be eligible for insurance coverage, reduced treatment costs, or a treatment scholarship depending on the rehab center.

Learn more about how to pay for alcohol and drug rehab.

Civil commitment, also known as involuntary commitment, can be similar to court-ordered rehab but it is not the same.

Unlike court-ordered rehab, the civil commitment process for addiction does not have to involve any interaction with the criminal justice system. This is typically initiated by family.

Civil commitment laws like Florida’s Marchman Act, however, can vary by jurisdiction.

Find A Court-Ordered Rehab Program

Court-ordered rehab options for a substance use disorder may be available for those who qualify.

For more information about court-ordered rehab, or to learn more about treatment options for a loved one in your life, call our helpline today to speak to a treatment specialist.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.

These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on March 17, 2023
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