On September 12, 2002, Nolte was arrested for being under the influence of alcohol or drugs after police observed him swerving into oncoming traffic near his Malibu home. After undergoing blood tests it was determined he was under the influence of what is known as Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) (also known as liquid Ecstasy) a "date-rape drug" which is a powerful and banned depressant. He was sentenced to three years probation and to counseling and random drug testing.
He was 61-years-old at the time of his arrest. Nolte checked into a Connecticut rehabilitation center two days after the incident. His publicist, Paul Bloch said in a statement, that Notle, "voluntarily entered Silver Hill Hospital to receive advice and counsel that he feels he needs at this time."