American drug courts can send people to court-ordered alcoholism treatment (court-ordered rehab), which is how the legal system in the United States rehabilitates individuals to allow them another chance at life after alcohol addiction.

What Are Drug Courts?

A drug court is a specialized court focused on rehabilitating eligible defendants back into society after substance abuse or addiction. Drug courts typically consist of:

  • Judges
  • Prosecutors
  • Attorneys representing the defendant
  • Social workers
  • Corrections officers
  • Medical professionals who specialize in substance use treatment

In the context of alcoholism, drug courts first prosecute the defendant based on a non-violent crime that was committed under the influence of alcohol. Second, a drug court may offer the defendant a reduced, or lenient sentence, which could still include prison time. This deal is contingent on the defendant agreeing to participate in a court-ordered treatment program for alcoholism.

Participating in a court-ordered program entails accepting legal culpability (pleading guilty) for any damages caused as a result of intoxication. In return, attending the program will account for a certain part of the sentence (the amount of time mandated by a judge, or negotiated between the defendant’s lawyer and the prosecutor).

Types of Drug Courts

As of June 2015, there were eleven different types of drug courts in the United States. Arranged from the most to the least common, these programs include:

  • Adult
  • Juvenile
  • Family
  • Veterans
  • Driving while intoxicated (DWI)
  • Tribal
  • Co-occurring
  • Re-entry
  • Federal district
  • Federal veterans
  • Campus

Types of Court-Ordered Treatments

Court-ordered alcoholism treatment programs are designed for individuals to learn from past offenses while simultaneously recovering from alcohol addiction. By pursuing mandatory alcoholism treatment, drug courts can supervise people and address the underlying causes of addiction and criminal behavior instead of traditional incarceration.

Several different types of court-ordered treatments exist and are chosen on a case-to-case basis. Program types include educational, group therapy, residential, outpatient and community-based programs.

Educational Programs

Educational programs may include classes under the umbrella of driving under the influence (DUI) schools or drunk driving education, that focus on the dangers of alcohol use while driving.

People who are convicted of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (but whose actions did not meet the legal threshold for harsher punishments) may be enrolled in a program that addresses myths and misconceptions about driving under the influence. Drunk driving myths include the belief that coffee or a cold shower instantly causes a driver to sober up.

While drunk driving laws vary by jurisdiction, offenders who complete DUI schools and fulfill any other court sentences usually have their licenses restored, with the understanding that future infractions will be punished more severely.

Group Therapy

The group therapy approach to court-ordered alcoholism treatment may include victim impact panels and motivational enhancement therapy.

Victim Impact Panels

Victim impact panels are a type of group therapy that includes hearing stories from people who have experienced alcohol-related tragedies. Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving share their individual stories to DUI offenders to showcase the full scope of the dangers caused by alcohol-impaired driving.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Besides victim impact panels, motivational enhancement therapy is commonly required by drug courts. This approach is designed to help individuals who are not convinced that entering a treatment program can help them recover from addiction.

Motivational enhancement therapy fast-tracks individuals through four therapeutic sessions, covering topics like:

  • Creating an alternative, productive focus in life
  • Developing coping skills for risky situations
  • Achieving goals set by the client
  • Drug abuse cessation strategies
  • How the client is changing their behavior and lifestyle

Research on motivational enhancement therapy has shown that it is successful in individuals with alcohol use disorder. It improves their participation in a treatment program and reduces the rate at which they unhealthily consume alcohol.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism assesses motivational enhancement therapy by explaining that, as a form of therapy, it is a better option for getting people into treatment than it is in helping them change their behavior.

Residential Programs

Long-term residential programs involve stays at a health care facility ranging from six to 12 months, while short-term stays may last from three to six weeks. People in residential programs usually receive care 24 hours a day during their stay at a facility, usually in non-hospital or clinical settings.

Treatment is focused on resocialization, structured daily activities and training opportunities for the future. Short-term residential programs segway into outpatient therapy and social activities after the stay.

The Recovery Village offers residential treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. To learn more about how residential programming can work for you, contact us today.

Outpatient Programs

In outpatient treatment for alcohol addiction, clients live at home and participate in part-time treatment and counseling during the day. Outpatient programs may be offered through different facilities, including full-service rehab centers like The Recovery Village. Depending on the specific outpatient program, the frequency, intensity, and effectiveness of alcoholism treatment will vastly differ.

To learn more about outpatient programs at The Recovery Village at facilities across the country, reach out to one of our representatives today.

Community-Based Programs

The goal of community-based programs is for the community at large to interact with and support people in recovery. Such programs help individuals receiving treatment for alcoholism connect with rehab facilities and key resources around the community. Community-based programs focus less on individual treatment and more on how community systems can be altered to discourage drinking:

  • Regulations on where alcohol is consumed and sold
  • General public health campaigns (schools, churches, local businesses)
  • Changes in local laws or regulations on alcohol consumption

Who Can Go to a Court-Ordered Rehab?

Wondering how to get court-ordered rehab? Not every individual with an alcohol use disorder can get court-ordered rehab. In general, to go to a court-ordered rehab program, a defendant must first be accused of committing a federal or state crime under the influence of alcohol. Additionally, a defendant cannot have previously attended court-rehab in the past.

Court-ordered rehab is only for people who have committed crimes because of their drug use. A person doesn’t have to commit a crime to go to rehab, though. Enrolling in rehab for alcohol addiction can be a smooth process for anyone with help from representatives at The Recovery Village.

Drug-Related Crimes

Drug-related crimes usually involve the possession, manufacturing, and distribution of illegal substances. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, drug-related crimes usually include:

  • Drug-defined offenses, or the possession or use of illegal drugs, for example
  • Drug-related offenses, with an example being violent behavior while under the influence of drugs, like stealing money
  • Drug-using lifestyles, with an example being short-term goals supported by illegal activities

A criminology study published in 2001 found that the relationship between substance use and crime is “almost automatic.” Another study found that 80% of incarcerated individuals use drugs or alcohol. Many of those inmates had been intoxicated when they broke the law, some had stolen money to buy more alcohol, and others had a history of intoxication — the main factor in committing the crime(s) for which they were arrested.

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUIs)

In the United States, first-offense DWI or DUIs are considered misdemeanors. However, based on blood alcohol content (BAC), some states will impose harsher punishments with minimum jail sentences. If an individual under the influence of alcohol has killed another individual (a felony) or is on their third or fourth DWI or DUI (also a felony), then jail sentences are longer.

Criteria For Court-Ordered Rehab

Court-ordered rehab may be issued to a person if their crime meets the following specifications:

  • The crime resulted from drug or alcohol addiction
  • The crime committed was nonviolent
  • The defendant can qualify for a probationary sentence
  • The defendant would benefit from rehab, in the court’s opinion

Can You Refuse Court-Ordered Treatment?

The alternative to court-ordered treatment is usually incarceration, which is why many people choose court-ordered rehab instead of life behind bars. When a defendant accepts court-ordered treatment over incarceration, it is a final and binding agreement. A defendant may not refuse treatment on the basis of the court order.

Who Pays for Court-Ordered Rehab?

Depending on the judge, individuals with court-ordered rehab are expected to cover all costs (usually with the help of health insurance, private payments from family members) unless they do not have the financial means to do so.

In many cases, individuals are too economically unstable or do not have the funds to cover their treatment. Several states are experimenting with both Medicaid options and county grants to fund court-ordered rehab for individuals. Additionally, some treatment centers may offer low-cost options or flexible payment schedules.

What Happens If You Violate Treatment?

If an individual violates their court-ordered treatment, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the laws in place in their respective state. Although a person may plead guilty for the violation, they may struggle with extended legal consequences, including fines and jail time, afterward.

The point of court-ordered rehab is to give someone a second chance after a drug-related offense, and violating the court-ordered treatment agreement may ruin this chance.

What Is the Difference Between Rehab and Court-Ordered Rehab?

Attending drug and alcohol rehab is voluntary for anyone who hasn’t broken the law. Court-ordered rehab is obligatory under the law, with the alternative being incarceration.

However, the outcome can be the same for both types of people. People who go to rehab of their own volition and people who are sent there by the court can both participate in life-changing addiction treatment, including medical support and counseling.

Is Court-Order Treatment Effective?

Fortunately, court-ordered treatment is effective. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug courts and court-ordered alcoholism treatment increase the time that offenders spend in treatment and provide positive motivation for them to remain in treatment programs longer.

Whether treatment is ordered by a judge or not, going to rehab helps someone get to the root of their addiction with the help of clinicians and counselors. Rehab is a great solution to treating addiction (as opposed to jail time, which doesn’t fix the issue) and helps someone embrace long-term recovery through genuine healing.

Statistics of Court-Ordered Rehab Success

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals emphasizes that:

  • Court-mandated alcoholism treatment programs are the most effective justice intervention to treat individuals whose alcohol use led them to break the law
  • Outcomes for individuals who undergo court-ordered rehab are comparable to, if not better than, outcomes in individuals who enter rehab voluntarily
  • Legally enforced treatment programs are a more formative option than jail, probation, or standalone treatment
  • Drug courts are more likely to keep offenders in treatment
  • Without the supervision of a judge, individuals are ten times less likely to complete treatment

Additionally, discharge data compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration shows that:

  • Men made up 66% of the total discharges from substance use health care facilities, while women made up 34%
  • The most common types of treatment service are outpatient and detoxification facilities
  • About 40% of all individuals complete substance use treatment in the United States
  • About 38% of individuals are self-referred for treatment while 31% are referred via court-ordered rehab
  • Approximately 35% of individuals enter treatment due to a primary alcohol addiction

Ultimately, court-ordered treatment not only reduces substance abuse and crime but saves lives and money.

Key Points: Court-Ordered Rehab

Important takeaways to remember about court-ordered rehab include:

  • Drug courts are legislative bodies that sanction court-ordered rehab for nonviolent offenses related to alcohol use
  • If chosen over incarceration, court-ordered rehab is mandated by law
  • There are many effective treatment strategies for individuals in court-ordered rehab

Drug courts work, but their power is derived from the fear of time spent behind bars and life permanently changed by the shadow of a prison sentence. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcoholism and the law, call The Recovery Village® today to discuss your options with a caring representative.


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