Examining Court Ordered Rehab for Teens

Examining Court Ordered Rehab for Teens

Mandatory addiction treatment can help some teens with drug or alcohol problems. It depends on the teen, the program and many other factors. Learn more about court ordered rehab for teens who use drugs and alcohol.


Juvenile Justice System and Rehab


Early intervention is critical when working with adolescents who have contact with the juvenile justice system. Every young person involved in the system should undergo screening and assessment but whether it works is the bigger question. Court-ordered treatment and monitoring may be the most effective approach to addressing substance use disorder services for many adolescents depending on individual circumstances. Three ways a teen can get treatment instead of jail includes:

  • Judge may sentence a person to some form of addiction treatment as part of the sentence
  • The lawyer may work out a deal with a prosecutor prior to appearing in court so the teen can complete a certain period of treatment as part of punishment
  • An opportunity will exist to appear in drug court instead of a conventional adult criminal court




Sentencing laws vary by jurisdiction but a teen and the family need to speak with a lawyer about the possibility of getting diverted to treatment instead of jail. This is especially important if:

  • This is the first or second offense with no history of violence or sexual assault
  • The teen is a non violent offender with no sexual offense
  • The teen has been arrested on a drugs crime or was intoxicated/high when committing the crime
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Willing to comply with mandatory treatment protocols
  • Willingness to plead guilty to a crime followed by treatment which may see the criminal record expunged


Drug Court


The goal of drug court is to divert appropriate offenders off the prison track into addiction treatment. More than 2,600 drug courts were in operation in the United States as of May 2012. A teen cannot be forced into drug court but the individual will have to plead guilty to the crime and agree to participation in an addiction treatment program. Other components of sentencing might include:

  • Sentence length of between 1-2 years
  • Mandatory treatment
  • No drug of alcohol use
  • Frequent random drug or alcohol testing
  • Frequent court appearances for progress updates
  • Making restitution to victims
  • Rewards for program compliance




Treatment assigned through drug court can be quite effective for teens who are struggling with addiction and commit a crime. The teen must be willing to do the work in treatment to move forward. It may be hard to see the possibility of a better future through foggy thinking related to drug or alcohol addiction. Treatment can provide an open door to get on the right path and away from a life of crime and substance abuse.The overall efficacy of the program will depend on each individual making a contribution and concerted effort to honor the sentencing protocol and take ownership of recovery.

Contact The Villa if your teen uses drugs or alcohol and needs help. We can give you resources to make an informed decision about best next steps to help the teen get back on track.