What Is Court-Ordered Rehab?

Court-ordered rehab describes drug and alcohol addiction treatment that is ordered as an alternative to incarceration. This allows individuals to get the help they need for a substance use disorder (SUD) while still under court supervision.

Court-ordered rehab does not always replace jail time but can be a required component of a sentence. Attendance in the treatment program can occur before sentencing, while incarcerated, or after release from jail or prison.

How Does Court-Ordered Rehab Work?

When a person commits a drug-related crime and appears before the court, eligible defendants receive an offer from the judge to attend rehab instead of jail. Some are given reduced sentences or expunged charges for successfully completing the program.

Defendants who agree to attend court-ordered rehab must follow strict instructions and deadlines mandated by the court. If a person does not complete the treatment program, the sentence may be forfeited, and the individual may have to serve the original jail time.

Court-ordered rehab programs differ in criteria, population, monitoring, and format, but most are designed to meet the needs of their community. Courts follow general guidelines during the process of assigning someone to court-ordered rehab, including the following:

  • Assessing participants to determine if their situation fits the program
  • Evaluating the needs and risks of potential participants
  • Appearing before a judge in court for sentencing
  • Drug testing to monitor abstinence
  • Ongoing court supervision
  • Providing incentives to maintain progress
  • Establishing aftercare and follow-up

A team of professionals assigned to each court-ordered rehab participant, including probation officers, attorneys, and treatment staff, regularly discuss how the person is progressing.

Who Is Eligible For Court-Ordered Rehab?

Having an addiction alone does not always mean a person qualifies for court-ordered rehab. Other factors are essential for program participants to benefit the most. Someone ordered to attend rehab typically meets the following criteria:

  • They have committed a non-violent, drug-related crime.
  • The crime was committed within the jurisdiction of the court.
  • They do not have charges pending in other jurisdictions.
  • They have not committed sexual assault, domestic violence, or drug trafficking crimes.
  • They do not have mental health issues that cannot be addressed in treatment or that will hinder treatment.
  • They must not be in a relationship with another participant.
  • They must meet the criteria required for the program. For example, they are at a high risk for repeating drug-related crimes.

Different Types Of Court-Ordered Rehab

Each state may vary in the types of court-ordered rehab programs available. Below are the most common types.

Who Pays For Court-Ordered Rehab?

Typically, the person ordered to attend addiction treatment is responsible for payment. The courts are not required to fund anyone participating in the program. However, many programs apply for and receive federal grant money to support treatment costs for individuals who cannot pay.

In addition, the defendant can choose a rehab that participates with their insurance company. For example, they can select a state-funded facility if they have Medicaid or Medicare. If they have private insurance, they may choose a private treatment program.

How Long Is Court-Ordered Rehab?

The length of stay for program participants is different for each due to factors such as addiction severity, type of substances, support system, and motivation to change. The longer a person remains in treatment, the better the outcomes.

A comprehensive assessment with a person’s drug court team will help determine how long they must stay. They will also determine the appropriate type of rehab program, including:

What Happens After Court-Ordered Rehab?

Upon successful completion of court-ordered rehab, the judge and court team discuss the next phase of the process. Some individuals will be released and have their charges dismissed. Others may have their sentences reduced or amended. What happens after depends on the original agreement and terms of the arrangement.

What Happens If Someone Fails To Complete Court-Ordered Rehab?

Many drug court programs involve probation or parole. If a person does not successfully comply or complete a court-ordered rehab program, they violate the terms of their probation or parole. They will go back in front of the judge who gave them the initial opportunity for treatment. The judge will decide what happens to the person, but usually, they will reinstate the original charges and sentence them accordingly.

The courts do not allow defendants to plead their case or re-negotiate plea deals. They are given their original sentence, sometimes with modifications.


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, court-ordered rehab works. They suggest court-ordered rehab is at least 45% more successful than other sentencing options, reducing substance misuse and repeat offending when the person returns to the community.

The National Treatment Court Resource Center report on adult drug courts shows that over 90,990 individuals have participated in court-ordered treatment, with 56% graduating successfully. Over 140,000 juveniles participated in court-ordered treatment, with over 59% graduating successfully.

Find Treatment For Substance Abuse

If you are struggling with substance abuse, help is available.

Addiction treatment can provide support, such as medication management, behavioral therapy, peer support, and aftercare plans to help maintain recovery and is an essential step towards an addiction-free future. Contact a treatment provider today to explore your options.