If you’re facing a legal situation, you may be wondering, “will rehab help my court case.” In some cases, the answer may be yes, but it can depend.

Drugs and alcohol are often the primary reasons people end up in jail or deal with legal troubles. Even if you’re in court or have a legal issue unrelated to substances, you might be asked about addiction and its role. In civil situations, such as child custody, substance abuse can become an issue too.

Some people will write a letter to a judge asking for rehab instead of jail time or another punishment. In other cases, you might voluntarily go to rehab before you’re in court to help your situation proactively. There’s also court-mandated rehab.

These are all different situations, and we talk more about them below.

Entering a Treatment Facility Voluntarily

If you enter rehab voluntarily before a trial or plea deal, you may be doing so because you want to reduce the severity of your sentencing.

Your charges may have directly been associated with substance use. For example, maybe your criminal charge is driving under the influence or something to do with purchasing illegal drugs. 

  • The court views alcohol and drug-related crimes with varying severity, but drunk driving, particularly for any offense after the first, can come with jail time and significant fines.
  • Courts around the country have started realizing over the past decade that for people with charges related to drugs or alcohol, punishment alone isn’t always effective. It’s often seen as an ineffective response to drug abuse
  • The American Medical Association published a report in 2009 indicating that jail time for offenders whose behavior is related to drug use is a failure as a public safety intervention.
  • The medical journal argued that addiction is a chronic brain disease with strong genetic elements requiring proper treatment. 
  • The study authors also said that the increases in the number of offenders who abuse drugs highlight the urgency of offering treatments for people involved in the criminal justice system.

If you’re facing criminal charges, there’s no guarantee that rehab will help your court case, but it’s also not going to hurt. You have to think of rehab and seeking treatment for addiction as not only beneficial for potentially reducing the legal consequences you face. When you go to a voluntary drug or alcohol rehabilitation program, it could also save your life.

Getting appropriate addiction treatment can completely change the course of your life, in addition to perhaps helping you avoid jail time or spend less time there.

You’re self-petitioning if you write a letter to the judge asking for rehab. Some judges may favor this approach because they’re asking to be put in a situation where they can’t leave treatment.

When you’re willing to admit you have a problem and take steps to change that, the law is more likely to show leniency. Going to rehab could lead to your sentence being completely suspended for minor crimes.

The court may want a clear indicator that you weren’t only motivated to go to rehab because you wanted to avoid punishment. They will need to see that you went to treatment out of a genuine desire for a better life free of drugs or alcohol.

If you have a defense attorney, you should speak to them about how you can show a judge that you’re serious about dealing with your alcohol addiction or drug addiction. 

Can Rehab Help With Divorce or Custody Cases?

Another situation where going to rehab could be helpful as far as a court case is if you’re going through a divorce or child custody issues. If you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, it has likely interfered with your personal relationships and responsibilities in your life.

If you are struggling with addiction, you may be at a disadvantage in family court. 

The addicted spouse may either give in to whatever the other spouse wants because they fear having their addiction talked about in court, or a judge could decide that one person is in a better position to care for the children due to substance abuse.

If you go to rehab voluntarily before a child custody hearing, it can be advantageous and show the judge that you care enough to make a significant change.

If a judge creates a custody order, it can mandate treatment, but it’s not meant to be a punishment. 

Courts do tend to look favorably at parents who are in rehab because they’re showing that they love their children enough to serve as a motivator for change.

Can You Force Someone to Go to Rehab?

Another situation that can come up when discussing whether rehab will help a court case is forcing someone to go to treatment. Some people wonder how to get a court order for rehab if they’re trying to help their loved one.

There are ways to talk about getting treatment with someone who has an addiction. If they’re not willing, there may be a few limited legal options.

For example, there is involuntary civil commitment.

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says involuntary civil commitment is a legal intervention.
  • The judge or someone acting in a judicial capacity can order someone with symptoms of a serious mental disorder to receive treatment for a period of time. 
  • For the most part, though, substance abuse falls outside the confines of a serious mental disorder.
  • Not every state allows for involuntary civil commitment because of a substance abuse problem. 
  • In states with the option, the standards to involuntarily commit someone due to drugs or alcohol are extremely high. You would usually have to show the person could be a harm to themselves or another person in a serious way.
will rehab help my court case

Court-Mandated Rehab

Finally, court-mandated rehab is a little different. In most of the situations above, aside from involuntary commitment from family members, we’ve talked about people who voluntarily go to treatment.

  • There is also court-mandated rehab. With court-ordered treatment or court-ordered rehab, a judge requires that someone participate in a treatment program as part of their ruling.
  • The court-ordered treatment program might be instead of jail time, or it could be a condition of release, probation, or parole when a person has a substance use disorder. 
  • Many juvenile and adult drug courts around the country specifically work with offenders who have substance use disorders. Drug courts’ goal is to get people into long-term treatment options instead of automatically giving a prison sentence. The court monitors offenders for progress as they complete rehab and lifestyle changes.
  • If someone is a first-time offender, particularly for a drug-related offense, their chances of going through drug court and a court-ordered rehab program may be higher. 

Research shows that using court-ordered rehab programs is an effective deterrent against future crime, and it appears to reduce relapse in terms of drug use and criminality. 

Court-mandated treatment may be a highly effective way to break the cycle of addiction, which is why these options are growing. 

If you’re ready to learn more about addiction treatment in the San Francisco Bay area, please contact the Silicon Valley Recovery specialists at 408-547-4089

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