Home » General » MA section 35: commitment of alcohol or substance abusers

MA section 35: commitment of alcohol or substance abusers

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Attorney Jason Chan

267 North Beacon Street, Suite 3
Boston MA 01235

Phone: 781-343-1DUI (781-343-1384)
Fax: 617-226-7986

alcohol bottlebottle of alcohol taken by Jeem

A section 35 is a civil commitment of a person that is having alcohol or substance abuse issues.  This is how it works.  There is a person who is abusing drugs or alcohol.  A family member, police officer, guardian or court official petitions the court to section the individual, which means to detain and send the abuser to a treatment facility.  The court has a doctor talk to the abuser and to give an opinion to the court about the severity of the abuser’s condition.  The court rules on whether the person should be detained for treatment. 

 Now an abuser can voluntary agree to be sectioned and go to a treatment center up to 30 days or an abuser could fight the petition.  If the drug or alcohol abuser agrees to voluntary go to treatment, and then the court will usually send that person to treatment.  If the abuser doesn’t want to be committed, the abuser is afforded a hearing. 

 In a hearing, the abuser has the right to be represented by a lawyer.  The court will hear from the doctor and usually the petitioner.  The lawyer is usually allowed to question the doctor.  In order to hold an abuser and force them to go into treatment, the court needs to find that the drugs or alcohol either substantially injure the abuser’s health, interferes with his social or economic functioning or has lost the power of self control over use of drugs or alcohol. 

 Now if after the hearing, the judge finds that “there is a likelihood of serious harm as a result of his alcoholism or substance abuse, it may order such person to be committed for a period not to exceed thirty days” (M.G.L Ch. 123 sec. 35). The person is usually then sent to Bridgewater for treatment and can’t be held for more than 30 days.  The state does encourage Bridgewater to allow people to voluntarily stay after the 30 days is up for treatment. 

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  1. Edward says:

    I went through the entire process. 
    I also ended up in a hospital. I don’t know where the monies are coming as all have a high co-pay. 
    I am also having issues w/y wife-who sec.35 me. I lost TRUST big time.  

  2. Tina says:

    My boyfriends father did this, and now my boyfriend is hiding out. Will they issue a warrant for his arrest over this?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have been placed on a psychiatric hold (not related to substance, but it was by a family member) and I can agree on one point that should be well considered by anyone in this situation: This is sometimes a "necessary evil" to help a loved one who is unable to help themselves, or even see (or admit) that they need the help. However, it can also be very damaging to trust, and the future of your relationship…even if you were in the right, and the person recognized it. Having someone locked up against their own will is a drastic move, that can have serious psychological and emotional impact on a person. Typically serious substance abusers are already suffering psychologically and emotionally.  
    Something to consider.

  4. Anonymous says:

    i have a freind that is sectioned by her mom for false reasons all the time this last time she was section for 30 days to framingham a real bad lawer she was appointed in court shoud of been hug for not doing anything nor even speaking on her behaf

  5. Norm says:

    i don’t know what to do… my partner is a drunk and drives drunk… i would feel responsable if he kills someone while drunk… any sugestions?

  6. Betsey Hallihan says:

    Please note that the section 35 law was amended on July 1, 2012 and now the section time has changed to read "not to exceed 90 days". You can be held for 90 days. I spent 90 days at Framingham. This is not the solution!

  7. melissa says:

    I also was sectioned based on lies. I admit I was abusing drugs, however, was NEVER a harm to myself or others. My mother and a so-called "friend" told the court crazy lies in order for me to be sectioned it was horrible and never even had a chance to speak and explain my side. The doctor from the court straight lied right to the judge claiming I admitted to using heroin when I never told her that the judge didnt even look at me once. It was one of the most traumatic experiences I have ever had the shackle you like you were a convicted murderer. You are handcuffed at the wrists and ankles with chains wrapped around your midsection. The COs driving the van drive like maniacs throwing you all over the van I fell to the floor where I couldnt get up and was bruised all over my body. I understand loved ones caring enough to seek help for you but lying to get you somewhere your not ready for is not fair. It is very scary to know that regardless of your age someone can still have the ability to have you locked away and taken from your normal life. I lost my job and my dignity and yes I know I did it to myself but they need to have a new system as to actually having proof of the things you are being accused of not to mention a conflict of interest when your family happens to know the judge I had no fair chance in that court room and I am not over exaggerating when I say I still have nightmares of the way I was treated the day of my section. My mother threatens me everyday of having me locked away again and its not right that she can actually do it

  8. Brittany says:

    I was sectioned in may…got out in June…I was wondering if now you stay for 90 days?? Bc there wasn’t any beds at WATC and I stayed at Framingham for like 16 days (comming off 120 mgs of methadone-horrible)then got transferred to WATC for the rest of the time… Just curious if u stay in Framingham for 90 days now??…

  9. betsey says:

    I’ve been following the comments since I have been sectioned three times. There’s great confusion about the process since the changes on July 1, 2012. I spent 90 days at Framingham Aug. to Nov. 2012. I was sectioned again and spent 30 days at WATC in Jan. 2013. The process has disturbed me so much, I’m writing a book about section 35. Any info or thoughts email me directly section35@hotmail.com

  10. betsey says:

    Please email me direct comments if you’d like. I made a mistake, the correct email address I have set up for this is section-35@hotmail.com

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