Court based civil commitment of alcoholics and substance abusers

Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 1991;19(4):359-66.


Problem. To study court ordered substance abuse commitment (SAC) in one jurisdiction. We investigated who was evaluated, by whom, and with what outcome. Is SAC primarily a purely civil procedure as originally intended? Are men and women being treated equally?

Method: Questionnaire survey of court clinicians to determine demographic and clinical status of persons evaluated, the process of evaluation, and the disposition.

Results: SAC is common and more frequent in criminal cases than in purely civil ones. SAC of women is clearly influenced by the restricted choices for disposition: either state prison or an unlocked facility.

Conclusions: SAC is an important public health procedure, which courts are using in highly variable and at times unintended ways. SAC has emerged as an alternative to other dispositions in criminal cases involving substance-abusing defendants.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation*
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Dangerous Behavior
  • Expert Testimony / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*