If you’re facing criminal charges and you are an honorably discharged veteran from any branch of the military, you may be eligible for Veterans’ Court. You may get a reduced sentence, favorable house arrest terms, and government-funded alternative programs to traditional sentences through Veterans’ Court.
Veterans’ Court is a relatively new idea that began in 2008 in New York. It has been geared toward addressing the problems unique to veterans of the military. Courts recognize that many veterans facing alcoholism, drug addiction, or other problems are facing them partially out of a response to PTSD or other combat related issues. Courts are now seeking to address these underlying issues with veterans rather than throwing them in with the rest of the defendants they face.
A first question that often has to be addressed is whether Veterans’ Court is a separate court in a different place than “normal” court. The short answer is no. Veterans’ Court is run as a program in the same county courthouse where your charges are pending. In some counties, it’s even in front of the same judge, and it’s all technically the same court.
Veteran’s Court comes with a number of advantages. If qualified, that individual who is on Veteran’s Court can face reduced jail time, lowered fines, and other reductions in penalties. Probation terms are typically easier to abide by. Where private organizations or the VA step in, there is money to fund treatment or other solutions for the defendant. Veterans’ Court of course is not open to everyone. You must be a veteran of one of the branches of the armed forces and you cannot have been dishonorably discharged.
Veterans’ Court is not a free pass, and in some cases, it would be a bad idea to accept its provisions. This is particularly true when you should fight the charges instead. Veterans’ Court still typically requires a guilty plea (outside of exceptional circumstances). It still requires compliance with the program, just like treatment court or ARD would. Furthermore, some charges are too serious for Veteran’s Court. Nonetheless, Veterans’ Court is a great opportunity, especially for veterans with underlying mental health conditions or drug addictions. It is a great way to seek resolution of charges and attempts to honor service to our country, rewarding those who have served our country.
If you have questions about Veterans’ Court, contact a criminal defense attorney in our office today.