Substance Use

Can You Go to Rehab Instead of Jail for Probation Violation?

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Probation Violations: Rehab or Jail?

If you fail a drug test while on probation, you may have to go to court-ordered drug rehab, or there may be more serious legal consequences, such as serving jail time. Failing a drug test while on probation for drug-related offenses often carries the highest penalty, but the ruling depends on your situation.

Are you or someone you love dealing with drug abuse? Let Zinnia Health answer your questions in a caring, confidential phone call. Call our helpline 24/7 at (855) 430-9439 to speak with our team of addiction treatment specialists.

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What Happens if You Fail a Drug Test on Probation?

A common condition of probation is that the probationer must obey the law and avoid drug use. If you fail a drug test, the consequences depend primarily on whether you’re a first-time offender and the nature of your original charges. Your relationship with your probation officer can also influence the outcome.

When you get to court, they may:

  • Begin to monitor you with weekly drug tests while you remain on probation
  • Add court-ordered rehab as a condition of probation
  • Deem the violation a “technical violation” and require you to serve jail time
  • Revoke your probation and require you to serve your original sentence

Each case is different, and it’s important to speak with your probation officer or defense attorney if you have questions about what is ahead.

Consequences That Can Occur if You Fail a Drug Test

You may be more likely to face severe consequences if you were charged with a drug-related crime and later failed a drug test while on probation. The same goes if you are a re-offender, meaning you have failed drug tests in the past or violated probation conditions in other ways.

While the consequences are ultimately up to the judge and your individual situation, there are many possibilities beyond jail time.


If you’re a first-time offender or there are other unique circumstances surrounding your case, you may only be issued a warning after a failed drug test. However, do not consider this an easy way out.

Even if you only receive a warning, you should take steps to prevent future problems by enrolling in an addiction treatment program or finding ways to address your substance abuse issues, such as attending group therapy.

Community Service

If your probation officer knows you are or will be in a recovery program and you’re taking steps to overcome addiction, you may be required to attend community service in lieu of jail time or other penalties. Any refusal to attend can lead to jail time, so it’s important to take your community service obligations seriously.

Rehabilitation Programs

If you are not already enrolled in a rehab facility, the court may order you to enroll in an inpatient treatment facility, join a sober living home, or start an outpatient rehab program. The requirements depend on the resources available in your area, your history of drug use, and what state-funded facilities have openings.

Counseling Services

If you have previously completed drug addiction rehab, counseling may be ordered to help you work through the relapse that led to your failed drug test. Mental or behavioral health counseling services may be recommended if your probation officer believes that underlying mental or emotional challenges caused you to fail your drug test.

Changes to Probation

After failing a drug test, new conditions may be introduced to your probation, or your probation period may be extended. Examples of new conditions include weekly drug testing, more frequent check-ins with your probation officer, a stricter curfew, and so on.

Jail Time

As a consequence of a failed drug test, you may be required to serve time in jail (such as up to 90 days) before returning to probation. If the failed drug test leads to the total revocation of your probation rights, you will have to return to jail for the length of your original sentence.

How to Mitigate the Situation if You Fail a Drug Test on Probation

When you fail a drug test, your probation officer is required to report the results immediately. The officer may or may not file for revocation, which means you will go to court, and a judge will decide whether you must serve jail time. However, in many cases, you will be remanded, which means you may return to custody while waiting for a decision.

If you don’t return to custody immediately, you’ll have time to mitigate (soften or reduce) the situation before appearing in court. The best thing you can do is enroll in a voluntary treatment program and begin taking weekly drug tests so that, when your court date arrives, you can show you’re taking action to address the issue.

In the meantime, stay in communication with your probation officer and make sure you’re fulfilling all conditions of your probation, including reporting as required. While these actions may not prevent disciplinary action in court, further violations will only hurt your case more.

If you or someone in your family is suffering from substance abuse, help is available. Zinnia Health can connect you with answers and resources in your area. Speak to our team by calling (855) 430-9439 for a free, no-obligation conversation.

What To Expect With Court-Ordered Rehab

If you’re required by court to enroll in a treatment center, failing to show up for your scheduled appointments could constitute another violation. This is why it’s important to learn about your treatment options and what rehab work you are required to do as part of your probation conditions.

In most cases, your probation officer will help you find rehabilitation programs that fulfill the court order, but you will almost always have options. When choosing, make sure you:

  • Enroll in an inpatient program if you don’t have a way to commute to regular appointments
  • Ask about a state-funded rehab center if you cannot afford the cost of treatment
  • Participate in an evidence-based program that will prepare you for sober living
  • Involve your loved ones and try to build a strong support system to avoid relapse in the future

Substance abuse can feel impossible to overcome on your own, but our specialists at Zinnia Health are on your side. Dial our 24/7 helpline at (855) 430-9439 to have a free, confidential conversation with our team of addiction specialists and get connected with resources in your area.

Call us
Ready to get help?
(855) 430-9439
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