Right of Probationer to Receive Medical Treatment, Commonwealth v. Bucklin

Kim Bucklin was placed on six months house arrest and three years probation after pleading guilty to drug possession and child abuse in June 2003. At the time, she was successfully combating an Oxycontin addition by receiving medically supervised methadone maintenance treatment at the Life Center of Galax. She was instructed by her probation officer that she must “detox” from methadone within six months. Ms. Bucklin attempted to comply with this order by tapering her dosage over a period of time, even against the advice of health care professionals at the Life Center. Eventually, however, she began to experience severe withdrawal symptoms, and the center began increasing her doses. When her probation officer heard of this, Ms. Bucklin was immediately jailed, and the circuit court judge revoked her probation, ordering her to spend three years in prison. The judge later vacated his order to allow us to argue that the revocation was unconstitutional. At a hearing on August 20, 2004, we put on testimony from a nationally known addiction treatment expert and argued that the forced removal of methadone treatment violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment, and the Americans With Disabilities Act. The judge has allowed additional time for the commonwealth’s attorney to respond to our brief, and held another hearing on November 29, 2004. At that time, the judge reduced Ms. Bucklin’s sentence on the probation violation to time served, but kept in place the prohibition on methadone treatment. She has decided not to appeal.


Rebecca Glenberg, ACLU of Virginia

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Tom Scott, Street Law Firm, Grundy

Date filed

August 9, 2004


Tazewell County Circuit Court