Court-Ordered Rehab: What It Is and How It Works

Last Updated: February 1, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

A person may participate in court-ordered rehab in lieu of spending time in jail for a drug-related crime, or because of an emergency situation.

People who live with an addiction often need treatment to recover. However, they may not always recognize that they have a problem that requires professional intervention. In some cases, people may be required to go to rehab via a court order, even if they don’t wish to seek help for their addiction.

What Is Court-Ordered Rehab?

Court-ordered rehab simply means that a judge has determined that someone requires addiction treatment, and they issue an order stating that the person must go to rehab. When rehab is court-ordered, a person is required to seek treatment, even if it is against their will. Violating a court order to seek treatment could result in penalties, such as fines or jail time. 

Court-ordered rehab is an option when someone has committed a drug-related crime, such as possession of drugs or public intoxication. Instead of giving jail time, a judge will stipulate that a person must seek addiction treatment. It is becoming more common for court-ordered rehab to be a part of drug courts, which prioritize treatment and rehabilitation to reduce the risk of relapse and criminal recidivism. 

Drug court programs provide intensive supervision and case management services. They mandate addiction treatment rather than incarcerating non-violent offenders who struggle with substance abuse. In a drug court program, a multidisciplinary team consisting of court staff, law enforcement and treatment professionals monitors an individual’s progress through drug testing and other methods to ensure they are complying with treatment. 

Emergency Court-Ordered Rehab 

Another way that court-ordered rehab can occur is through an emergency order. At this time, 35 states and the District of Columbia have involuntary commitment laws that allow someone to be committed against their will in emergency situations. Someone who has a substance use disorder or addiction can be committed to rehab via an emergency court order if they meet certain criteria, such as:

  • Having a serious disability
  • Presenting an immediate danger to themselves or others
  • Being unable to care for themselves

Examples of Court-Ordered Drug Rehab Programs

When someone is court-ordered to participate in a rehab program, there are a variety of options available. In some cases, a court may require a person to participate in counseling within the community. In more severe cases of addiction, someone may be ordered to an inpatient treatment program. 

12-Step Programs

A court may order a person to participate in 12-step programming, which is a mutual support group program for people with addictions. These programs are often known as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). The benefit of 12-step programs is that they are available across the country, and there is no cost to attend a 12-step meeting. Individuals who participate in this form of rehab attend meetings where they receive support from others who are also living with addiction, and they work through 12 specific steps to help themselves recover. 

Educational Programs

Some courts may contract with agencies that provide educational groups on the topic of addiction. In these groups, people learn about the signs of addiction, the effects of addiction on the brain and the dangers of drug use. The goal of these groups is to help offenders understand the risks of addiction and change their behavior. 

Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab

There are several different levels of care in addiction rehab, and inpatient programs are the highest level of care. People who are court-ordered to inpatient rehab live onsite at a treatment facility while undergoing treatment. Inpatient programs are staffed 24 hours per day and provide numerous services, including individual and group counseling, medication management, mental health treatment, case management and supportive services. A person may be court-ordered to an inpatient program when they have not been successful maintaining sobriety in the community, or when they do not have a supportive home environment. 

Outpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Court-ordered rehab may also occur on an outpatient basis, meaning that a person continues to live at home while attending appointments at a treatment center in the community. Outpatient programs offer multiple services, such as individual and group counseling, medication management and educational groups. Patients who are court-ordered to outpatient care must demonstrate that they are committed to remaining sober while living in the community. 

Individual Counseling

Court-ordered rehab can also involve a referral to individual counseling. A judge may determine that a first-time offender is simply in need of one-on-one counseling to help them overcome the underlying issues that led to drug use and arrest. In more severe cases, however, a person may be required to participate in a formal rehab program that involves multiple services. 

Eligibility for Court-Ordered Rehab

Specific eligibility for court-ordered rehab will depend on the state where someone lives. Generally, there are requirements such as having evidence of a substance use disorder, showing a motivation to make changes and committing a non-violent offense. In New Jersey, people who commit a non-violent offense and have a moderate to severe substance use disorder are eligible, but a treatment professional must determine clinical eligibility. 

If you enter court-ordered rehab via an emergency order, this is because a judge has determined that you meet criteria for involuntary commitment. These criteria include factors such as presenting a danger of harm to self or others, being unable to care for yourself or struggling with decision-making. 

Who Pays for Court-Ordered Rehab?

If you are court-ordered to rehab, you will typically need to cover the costs of your services. The good news is that you can choose which treatment facility you attend, so you can find something that best meets your financial needs. Some programs offer sliding fee scales based on income, which can help you to reduce the costs of your treatment.

Does Insurance Cover Court-Ordered Rehab?

Many insurances cover the cost of addiction treatment and can help lower your out-of-pocket costs. You may have a co-payment for rehab services, but if your insurance offers coverage, you will not be responsible for the entire cost of treatment. State Medicaid programs are required to cover behavioral health services, including those for substance use disorders. This means if you have public insurance, you will have some coverage available to you, but may be limited to programs that accept public insurance. 

How Long Is Court-Ordered Rehab?

The length of court-ordered rehab can vary depending on your specific needs and the state where you live. In New Jersey, the Recovery Court program can be completed in two years. In some cases, recovery may occur in various phases. For example, you may begin with a 30-day inpatient program and then transition to outpatient care. 

What Happens If You Violate Court-Ordered Rehab?

If you are participating in drug court or another court-ordered rehab program that requires you to go to treatment, you will face penalties if you do not follow through with attending treatment. You may receive fines for violating the terms of probation, or you could be sentenced to serve jail time if you do not complete rehab. If you are attending treatment in lieu of conviction, you could be convicted of a crime and required to serve a full sentence if you don’t complete treatment.

Is Court-Ordered Rehab Effective?

If you’ve heard that treatment only works when it is voluntary, you may have been misled. Research from the National Institute of Justice has shown that people who participate in drug courts are less likely to test positive for drugs and commit crimes. Further, the research shows that drug courts result in savings of up to $6,208 per person because of the reduction in recidivism rates. Investing in court-ordered rehab can help people to get the treatment they need to recover from addiction. 

Drug and Alcohol Rehab in New Jersey

If you or a loved one is living with an addiction, help is available. The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper provides comprehensive addiction treatment, including inpatient and outpatient rehab, to those in the South Jersey and Philadelphia areas and beyond. We employ a multidisciplinary team of licensed addiction treatment professionals, including registered nurses, mental health counselors and clinical social workers. 

The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper accepts insurance to help you cover the cost of court-ordered rehab services, and our intake coordinators are available to help you verify your insurance or answer any other questions you may have. Contact us today to begin the admissions process


U.S. Department of Justice. “Drug Courts.” August 2021. Accessed May 22, 2022.

Office of National Drug Control Policy. “Drug Courts.” Accessed May 22, 2022.

National Judicial Opioid Task Force. “Involuntary Commitment and Guardianship Laws

for Persons with a Substance Use Disorder.” Accessed May 22, 2022.

Donovan, Dennis M.; Ingalsbe, Michelle H.; Benbow, James; Daley, Dennis C. “12-Step Interventions and Mutual Support[…]orders: An Overview.” Social Work in Public Health, 2013. Accessed May 22, 2022.

New Jersey Courts. “Recovery Court FAQ.” 2018. Accessed May 22, 2022.

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission. “Behavioral health benefits.” Accessed May 22, 2022.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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