A little-known Kentucky law can help your family deal with substance abuse

A little-known Kentucky law can help your family deal with substance abuse

Do you have a loved one struggling with addiction?

It’s no secret that the drug and alcohol epidemic both in Kentucky and nationwide are at an all-time high. In 2004 – long before the current epidemic of opioid abuse – Kentucky enacted a law that allows families and friends to help their loved ones who are struggling with addiction. This little-known law offers hope to those who deal every day – and very personally – with this growing crisis.

Matthew Casey Wethington
Casey Wethington

The Matthew Casey Wethington Act – which also is commonly referred to as “Casey’s Law,” allows families to force their addicted friends and family members to undergo substance abuse treatment. As a Kentucky Criminal Defense Attorney, I am an advocate for Casey’s Law and – like many Kentucky families, I hope it dramatically reduces the number of Kentuckians who are taken too soon by drugs and/or alcohol addiction or who find themselves imprisoned by an addiction that affects every facet of their lives.

So, what is Casey’s Law? Good question.

Casey’s Law is a legal process that allows parents, relatives or friends to petition the court for involuntary treatment of their loved one. It requires multiple steps and the completion of various forms, and as a result the entire process can be quite confusing. My hope here is to provide a summary of the process, and I have included a link to the rules and Petition needed to initiate the steps to get your loved one the help they need. You can also find the required forms to apply for an intervention here.

Casey’s Law:  Your rights and responsibilities

  • You, as a parent/guardian, relative or friend who is 18 years of age or older, have the right to file a Petition (AOC-700A) with the Court to have your loved one involuntarily placed in a treatment facility for a period of up to 60 or 360 days.
  • You are responsible to schedule two appointments for your loved one with qualified health professionals, one of whom must be a medical doctor.
  • You are responsible to make arrangements at a rehab facility for a bed for your loved one.
  • You are responsible to file a notarized Petition with your local circuit clerk’s office. You can find your circuit court clerk here.
  • Upon filing the Petition, the clerk will provide it to a judge for review. You have the right to testify before the judge to aid in his/her determination. If the judge determines probable cause exists, he or she will sign the appropriate order (AOC-701A) and schedule a hearing within 14 days.
  • The circuit court clerk will then issue a summons (AOC-702A). You are responsible to serve the summons upon your loved one with a witness present, or you have the right to have your local sheriff or constable’s office serve the summons for a fee.
  • The clerk will ask you to sign a guarantee of payment meaning you accept responsibility for any and all payments for the treatment facility. Taking responsibility for these payments should not hinder your decision to take advantage of Casey’s Law, because there are free and low-cost facilities in Kentucky that provide substance abuse intervention services.
  • The clerk will also give you two certification forms (AOC-703A). You are responsible to get your loved one to the two appointments you previously made and to complete those certification forms. You must then return them to the clerk within 24 hours.
  • At the hearing, you have the right to provide testimony to support your Petition and the certifications filed. Your loved one also has the right to provide testimony to refute your claims. The judge will decide if your loved one suffers from substance abuse, is a danger to themselves or others, and whether treatment will be beneficial.

All this can be very confusing. It is important to know that many county attorney offices have a designated individual who can assist in this process.

I also am providing here an information packet with a flow chart to assist in understanding how the process works and to help in your efforts to gain treatment for your loved one.

As a Lexington attorney who deals with many matters related to substance abuse, I encourage my clients and their family members to take advantage of this new law. As I said above, Casey’s Law offers hope for those dealing with the scourge of addiction. It can save not only a life, but give a life back to your loved one.

I also am ready and willing to assist with this process. Feel free to call my office at 859-255-0500, or you can reach my cell phone at 859-270-1255.


The Matthew Casey Wethington Act is named for Matthew Casey Wethington, who died in 2002, at the age of 23, from a heroin overdose. Although his parents tried to get him help, there was no law that could force someone into treatment because he was an adult. After Casey’s death, his parents lobbied for a change. “Casey’s Law” is an involuntary treatment act for those who suffer from the disease of addiction. Read more…