Contact Burning Tree

Our Promise: Deliver life-changing clinical interventions to those who have been unable to find freedom from the unending cycle of relapse.

Send us a Message

When Should Criminal Attorneys Refer Clients to Long-Term Addiction Treatment?

Criminal attorneys frequently encounter situations where substance use disorder (SUD) intersects with legal issues, prompting them to consider long-term, chronic addiction treatment for their clients. The decision to refer a client to treatment is often motivated by both the desire to provide holistic legal defense and the recognition of addiction as a contributing factor to criminal behavior. There are several circumstances under which a criminal attorney might make a referral to long-term treatment like Burning Tree Ranch.

Who We Are

Burning Tree Ranch is a specialty program dedicated to the treatment of chronic addiction and mental health. Our program is long-term, progress-based, and highly intensive. Since 1999, we have supported countless referring professionals in delivering ethical, high-quality solutions to the clients and families they represent.

Circumstances for Referral

Repeat Offenses

A pattern of repeat offenses, especially those directly related to substance use (e.g., DUI, possession charges), can indicate an underlying issue with addiction that needs addressing beyond the courtroom.

Substance-Related Crimes

Direct involvement in crimes related to substance use, such as drug trafficking or manufacturing, suggests that addiction may be a significant factor in the client's criminal activity.

Pretrial and Sentencing Phases

During these phases, attorneys may advocate for treatment as an alternative to incarceration, especially if they believe addiction treatment can address the root cause of the criminal behavior.

Probation or Parole Requirements

Attorneys might recommend treatment to comply with probation or parole conditions that mandate treatment, aiming to improve the client's chances of successful reintegration and to avoid future legal issues.

Client's Acknowledgment of a Problem

If the client recognizes their substance use as a problem and expresses a willingness or desire to seek help, the attorney may facilitate a referral as part of their support.

Observations Informing the Need

In these scenarios, a criminal attorney’s referral to addiction treatment is driven by a comprehensive approach to defense that considers the client’s well-being and future beyond immediate legal outcomes. Such referrals aim to mitigate legal penalties and address the underlying issues contributing to criminal behavior, offering a path toward recovery and reducing the likelihood of recidivism.

Behavioral Indicators: Signs of addiction, such as withdrawal symptoms in meetings, erratic behavior, or discussions that reveal a dependency on substances, can alert an attorney to the need for intervention.
Impact on

Legal Strategy: Observing that a client’s substance use complicates their legal defense or their ability to participate meaningfully in their defense strategy may prompt a referral.

Client’s Personal and Family Impact: Learning about the negative effects of a client’s substance use on their personal life, employment, and family relations can underscore the necessity of treatment.

Lack of Previous Effective Treatment: Discovering that a client has unsuccessfully attempted to address their addiction in the past without adequate support may lead an attorney to recommend a more comprehensive treatment approach.

Judicial Recommendations: Judges or prosecutors may suggest or express openness to treatment options as part of plea negotiations or sentencing, influencing the attorney’s advocacy for treatment.

Colorized Photo of Main Building at Burning Tree Ranch
Referrals aim to mitigate legal penalties and address the underlying issues contributing to criminal behavior, offering a path toward recovery and reducing the likelihood of recidivism.

Advocating Beyond the Courtroom:Criminal Attorneys and Addiction Treatment

The responsibility of a criminal attorney to recommend long-term chronic addiction treatment to a client is multifaceted, blending legal advocacy with a commitment to the client’s overall well-being and future. While not a formal legal obligation, this responsibility is informed by ethical considerations, professional judgment, and a holistic approach to legal defense. Here’s a breakdown of this responsibility:

Ethical Consideration

Attorneys are ethically bound to act in their client’s best interests. When addiction is a contributing factor to criminal behavior, recommending treatment can be in the client’s best interest, potentially leading to reduced legal penalties and a more favorable long-term outcome.

Any recommendation for treatment must respect the client’s privacy and autonomy, presenting the option in a manner that supports the client’s dignity and freedom of choice.

Professional Judgment

A criminal attorney must use professional judgment to assess whether addiction treatment is appropriate. This includes considering the nature of the criminal charges, the client’s history with substance use, and the potential for treatment to impact the client’s future positively.

Part of the attorney’s responsibility is to develop a legal strategy that serves the client’s best interests. Recommending addiction treatment may be strategically beneficial, potentially serving as a mitigating factor in sentencing or as part of a plea agreement.

Holistic Legal Defense

A criminal attorney may recognize that addressing the underlying cause of criminal behavior, such as addiction, is crucial for the client’s rehabilitation and preventing future legal issues.

Attorneys may advocate for treatment options within the legal process, such as drug courts or diversion programs, which focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment for individuals struggling with addiction.

Practical Considerations

While making direct recommendations, attorneys can provide clients with resources or referrals to addiction treatment professionals and programs, thus supporting their recovery.

In cases where the court mandates treatment, the attorney’s responsibility includes ensuring that the client understands and complies with these requirements, facilitating a smoother legal process.

Photo of Engraved Rock with the Burning Tree Ranch Logo

Creating Pathways to Freedom:Legal Leverage and Family Support

A criminal attorney, as a trusted professional, has a unique position to motivate a client towards treatment for substance use disorder (SUD), particularly when such treatment aligns with the best interests of the client and their family.


  • Highlighting Legal Benefits: An attorney can explain how completing a treatment program might lead to more favorable legal outcomes, such as reduced charges, lighter sentences, or alternative sentencing focusing on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
  • Emphasizing Family Well-being: By discussing the impact of the client’s substance use on their family, an attorney can motivate the client to seek treatment not only for their benefit but also to improve family relationships and dynamics that may have been strained due to the addiction.
  • Presenting Success Stories: Sharing stories of other clients who have successfully gone through treatment and seen positive changes in their legal situations and personal lives can serve as powerful motivation.
  • Connecting Treatment to Future Goals: Discussing how treatment and recovery are critical steps towards achieving goals, whether related to career, education, or personal achievements, can motivate clients to see treatment as an investment in their future.

Incorporating Leverage for Treatment

  • Conditional Plea Agreements: An attorney might negotiate plea agreements contingent upon the client entering and completing a treatment program, thus legally binding the client to undergo treatment.
  • Monitoring and Reporting: Setting up a system where the client’s progress in treatment is monitored and reported back to the court can create a sense of accountability, encouraging the client to stay engaged with the program.
  • Involving Family Support: Encouraging the family to be involved in the treatment process, including family therapy sessions, can provide additional motivation and support for the client to complete the program.
  • Leveraging Probation Conditions: For clients on probation, an attorney can advocate for treatment as a condition of probation, where failure to complete treatment could result in legal consequences.
  • Accessing Specialty Courts: If available, participating in specialty courts like drug courts, which focus on treatment and rehabilitation rather than incarceration for drug-related offenses, can provide structured support and incentives for completing treatment.

By utilizing these strategies, a criminal attorney can effectively motivate their client to engage with and complete necessary treatment, leveraging their legal knowledge and the support system available to the client, including family and court resources, to facilitate recovery.

Asking the Right Questions

Considering Long-Term Treatment for Your Client

The Need to Act

What are the circumstances?

What are the circumstances under which you may refer a person to long-term, chronic addiction treatment? What are you observing that informs you of the need to act?

Fiduciary Duty

What Is Your Professional Responsibility?

Do you have a moral or fiduciary responsibility to make a recommendation for long–term chronic addiction treatment for your client?

Motivation for Completing Treatment

What can be leveraged to motivate the client?

What motivation for treatment might you be able to create as a trusted professional serving a family’s best interest? How might you incorporate leverage for the client to go and complete treatment?

Video Cover: Who is a Burning Tree Client?

We've Worked Closely with Legal Professionals to Refer Clients to Burning Tree for Long-Term Treatment

How Do I Know If My Loved One is a Fit for Burning Tree Ranch?

Answer a Few Short Questions

Authentic Long-Term Treatment

Burning Tree specializes in treatment for Chronic Relapse

We understand the complex, multi-faceted issues many of our families face when it comes to addiction. The circumstances of long-term residential treatment allow us to create a treatment program unlike anything else in the world.

Operating outside the limitations of a traditional 30, 60 or 90-day format, Burning Tree adheres to progress-based metrics that inform the clinical treatment team of the unique mental, emotional and spiritual needs of the individual.

We are the only treatment center in the United States that combines time-intensive residential treatment with a therapeutically coordinated aftercare program focused singularly on the treatment of chronic relapsers.

Burning Tree is a World-Renown Organization

Featured In Top Publications