Dealing With Legal Issues in Treatment

Upon entering treatment, many of us are involved with legal entanglements that are often the result of our addictive behavior. It’s a somewhat terrifying aspect of recovery, and these predicaments can range from simple drug possession or shoplifting, to much more severe crimes such as drug sales, D.U.I’s and everything in between. It’s something that must be dealt with as a high priority, because if you ignore your legal problems, you’re facing far more trouble on the back end. You could be removed from rehab without passing go and collecting $200, or at the very least, it will add an incredible amount of stress in your recovery, and very likely impede your progress on an emotional level. The less you have hanging over your head in treatment, the better…and legal issues can cast a long and petrifying shadow.

The good news is that most treatment centers know this and often have staff on hand to deal with this likelihood; these could range from a court liaison to a dedicated alternative sentencing staff member. If you have any legal issues going in, it’s a paramount idea to inquire as to what degree your facility can help you from the outset. By doing this, you will not only be making your legal issues manageable, but you’re clearing the road to recovery of incapacitating roadblocks.

One of the elemental and initial things to know before you enter treatment is your exact charge and previous record. Many private and non-profit rehabs will not admit clients that have charges or records with sexually-based or violent crime. However, if you do have these issues, you’re not out of luck.. In these cases, you may have to accept treatment in a county-based or pre-approved treatment center that accepts felons with these charges. Your choices will be somewhat limited, but you can get treatment...

Before entering rehab, many courts will allow someone with legal issues the opportunity to complete treatment prior to sentencing. Depending on the crime and the person’s past record, treatment is often proposed in the place of incarceration. Sometimes this is called Delayed Entry of Judgment (DEJ) or falls under (in L.A. County) the Prop. 36 initiative.

There are some facilities that will actually go to court with you, and present the presiding judge a progress report letter, which will (hopefully) illustrate good conduct in treatment, including negative drug tests, client participation, etc. Due to over-crowding in the jail system, courts are generally inclined – again, based on the severity of the charge - to use drug treatment in lieu of incarceration. It just makes sense…and it’s one of the few things in the penal system that does. In some severe cases, the courts will sentence someone to a term following treatment. Again, many treatment centers will at the very least make an appearance in court with you and/or provide a letter to show progress.

As far as parole and probation goes, the good news is that most treatment centers are required to perform due diligence and assist clients who need to check in on a regular basis with county parole/probation officers.

In the end, we do need to reiterate the importance of facing your legal entanglements before and during rehab. Sweeping it under the rug will not only create disaster down the road, but you’ll also be missing a key element of the whole recovery picture.

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