Most states have laws that allow the involuntary treatment of someone with a substance abuse problem who is also deemed to be a threat to the safety of themselves or someone one else. Most states also have involuntary psychiatric treatment laws as well. Additionally, all states have some form of drug court, which is voluntary participation in either outpatient or inpatient drug treatment in exchange for the state dropping all charges after successful program completion. Assisted outpatient treatment, called AOT, is another form of not necessarily voluntary treatment. Under AOT, laws such as California Laura’s Law can compel someone to attend outpatient treatment while living in the community. Both Arizona and Florida also have AOT. This article will discuss the following question: Who would most likely be mandated outpatient treatment?
Laura’s law is more germane to someone with a psychiatric illness, although the term brain disease is used in the statute. Substance abuse disorder is considered a brain disease, so it’s possible for a drug abuser to be required by a court to attend outpatient treatment whether they want to or not. This kind of AOT treatment is more likely to be ordered for someone who is:
- Unable to care for themselves due to their brain disease
- A threat to themselves or others
- Is refusing voluntary treatment
- Is 18 years of age or older
- Having a history of psychiatric illness, which may or may not include substance abuse
Even while in treatment, no competent person, meaning someone who understands what the medication is, can be forced to take psychiatric drugs or any other drugs, but the court will see this as a refusal to comply with program requirements. If the treatment plan includes medication, and the patient refuses to take it, he or she can be brought into inpatient treatment on a 72-hour hold. During this time, the person will be evaluated by psychiatric staff for the further need for inpatient treatment. If this need isn’t documented, the person will be released but is still obligated to follow their court-ordered AOT.
Any adult person living with the patient can petition the court for AOT. This includes, but is not limited to, an adult child, a parent, a sibling or spouse. A parole or probation officer or treating psychiatrist may also bring a petition.
All states have some form of this. Drug court allows certain offenders to complete a court-approved drug program in lieu of jail time. It’s a type of very intensive program designed for felony offenders. If the person completes the program, the court will drop their related charges. The arrest will still show, but many states make a critical distinction between an arrest and a conviction. An arrest shouldn’t prevent you from obtaining state licensure for various occupations, but employers and prospective landlords may have a problem with it.
Drug court is never involuntary. The person must agree to it, although they may only do so to avoid jail time or because they can’t afford to have a felony conviction on their record. A drug court, called diversion in some states, requires a large commitment in both time and effort from the participant. Random drug testing will be required, and this is usually done under direct observation by a same-sex probation officer. Most drug courts have strict qualification requirements:
- No violent felonies or sex charges
- A limit on the number of past felonies
- Possession for sales, manufacturing and cultivation generally disqualify someone from drug diversion
The participant is responsible for the payment of program fees, which can be considerable. Someone most likely to receive court-mandated substance abuse treatment is someone who has a job, is motivated to stay clean and complete the program, is willing to undergo random urinalysis, and understands the consequences of failing to complete the program.
Once you agree to drug court, you must follow through. You cannot change your mind later. If you do, the court will order your arrest and return to custody. At this point, you will face your original charges with no plea bargain or reduced time that may have been available before you agreed to drug court. Depending on your charges, you could be facing extended incarceration.
A Place for Help
If you’re wondering about outpatient or mental health treatment through the court system and would like more information, we can help. Just call our trained, professional drug counselors anytime at 844-639-8371. We want to help.