What is Veteran’s Court?
Veteran’s court follows the model used by sobriety court and mental health court, to assist military people facing criminal charges. Veteran’s court strives to put people on track to achieve sobriety and stability after being charged with a crime.
The program allows veterans access to mental health and substance abuse treatment. Co-occurring conditions are addressed, such as homelessness, medical problems, and unemployment. Veterans’ courts rely on resources from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the local communities, and peer mentors to help participants.
Veteran’s Court Participants
Eligibility for Veteran’s court includes the following:
- The individual must be a veteran
- Veterans must be diagnosed with an alcohol or drug use disorder; or mental illness.
- Applicants must not have a conviction for specified violent crimes.
- Other criteria as determined by the sponsoring court.
Veterans must complete a pre-admission evaluation and screening to determine if the Veteran’s court program is a good fit. It is also necessary that the defendant’s criminal charges have been resolved by a guilty or no contest plea. The defendant must also waive their right to a speedy trial, their right to representation by an attorney during Veterans’ court review hearings, and their right to a preliminary examination.
People who are eligible for Veteran’s court can transfer their case to another jurisdiction if there is not a Veterans’ Court in their county. The transfer must be agreed upon by the defendant, the judge and the prosecutor of the case.
Why Participate in a Veterans’ Court?
There are numerous benefits derived from a Veterans’ court program. Veterans’ court's program provides ongoing monitoring and treatment for the defendant which would not occur in a typical criminal proceeding. This includes follow up with treatment providers and other services. This monitoring includes drug and alcohol screening on a regular basis and assessment of the individual’s progress through the program. Veterans’ courts allow the participants the opportunity for substance abuse services, vocational and educational opportunities, along with the other VA services.
Participants have the opportunity to engage in a mentor program. The individual is paired with another veteran who provides moral support and guidance. This mentor is similar to the individual in rank, a branch of the military, and other experiences.
One of the conditions of participating in a Veterans’ court program is a periodic evaluation of progress toward recovery goals. Lack of progress results in remedial measures. Rewards are given to those who reach their recovery goals. Serious violations result in discharge from the Veteran’s court or incarceration.