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How To Get Someone Court-Ordered Rehab

Jennifer Cousineau MSCP, LPCI, NCC

Medically reviewed by

Jennifer Cousineau MSCP, LPCI, NCC

April 21, 2020

When a loved one is struggling with addiction, it may be tempting to try and force them into treatment. Understanding the pros and cons of court-ordered rehab may help you decide on the best course of action.

People who have committed a drug-related crime can often be court-ordered into rehabilitation. This option is commonly sought by people who wish to avoid serving time in jail or prison and is only possible with non-violent crimes.

Using this technique requires getting them to plead guilty or make a deal with the prosecuting attorney. It may also require appearing in a drug court rather than a criminal court, but the qualifications will vary depending on the local jurisdiction.

Typical qualifications include:

  • drug addiction diagnosis
  • willingness to comply with treatment
  • no history of violent or sexual crimes
  • no other instance of drug-related crime on their record

If your loved one completes this mandatory treatment, some states will wipe their record clean.

For young people struggling with substance use, this option is a way to get their life back on track without laboring under a criminal record.

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Involuntary Rehabilitation Is Available In Some States

Although nationwide involuntary rehabilitation is not yet a reality, 37 states have passed laws that provide some form of involuntary commitment to substance abuse treatment.

For example, Massachusetts has Section 35, a law that creates a pathway for family members to check their loved ones into rehabilitation without their permission.

The only relatives who can file a Section 35 court order treatment are spouses, blood relatives, or legal guardians. Police officers, physicians, and legal representatives can also file.

Filing for Section 35 requires:

  • filling out an order of commitment form
  • waiting for the court to review the case
  • attending court if it’s decided the person needs rehabilitation; they can come to the court of their own free will or they may be apprehended with an arrest warrant
  • examination by a court psychiatrist and any experts the individual wants to use
  • a ruling on whether the person meets involuntary commitment guidelines

For the person to qualify, they need to meet a medical diagnosis of addiction and must present a likelihood of harming themselves or others. That harm must be as a direct result of addiction and not other underlying problems, such as mental instability.

Minors Can Be Forced Into Rehabilitation

If your child is suffering from addiction and they are 17 years old or under, you can force them into drug rehabilitation at any time. You don’t have to seek their approval or file a petition.

If you want to force a loved one into rehab who won’t admit they have a problem, it might be a good idea to do it before it’s too late.

Problems With Involuntary Rehabilitation

While involuntary rehabilitation has the advantage of getting your loved one the help they need, it’s not without its drawbacks. For example, if your loved one is in denial about their addiction or is unwilling to commit to the program, it could be hard to achieve a positive outcome.

In some cases, people who know they have a problem may still react negatively to involuntary rehab simply because they had no choice in the matter.

Reactions like this are often caused by fear related to a loss of autonomy. People rarely want to be treated as if they have no control over their life or have somebody take it over. Most people associate a loss of autonomy with weakness, inadequacy, and feelings of helplessness.

As a result, drug rehabilitation is generally more successful if the person attending has a perceived level of control. Try to offer options to anyone going through involuntary rehabs, such as allowing them to choose the treatment centers or treatment options they’ll experience.

Alternatives To Involuntary Rehab

There are concerns surrounding the effectiveness of court-ordered involuntary rehab. Since the advent of the popular television show “Intervention,” an increasing number of people are turning to that option to shock their loved ones into treatment.

Statistics have shown that 90 percent of all interventions are successful if the person seeks help immediately. Confrontation with concerned loved ones and the full weight of the damage they’ve caused jolts their perception back to reality.

While no treatment option or rehabilitation method can be considered 100 percent effective, intervention is often a better start than involuntary rehabilitation. The latter should only be used when all other options have failed and your loved one resists making the changes they need.

Learn More About Alcohol And Drug Rehab

There are benefits and disadvantages to court-ordered rehabilitation that you need to consider before making this crucial decision. If you need more information about addiction treatment or court-ordered rehab in Massachusetts, Texas, Ohio, or Mississippi, please contact us today. - Section 35: The Process

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