15 Jun When California Veterans Get into Trouble with the Law: The Veterans Court
Many returning soldiers, as well as former soldiers from previous wars, suffer problems when trying to integrate back into society. Soldiers who joined the military at an early age, may not have the work skills needed to take on a present-day job that requires expert computer and writing skills, or some other talent.
Soldiers can also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders relating to war zone fighting and what that constant stress did to the brain and body over time. Trying to focus on learning new skills becomes very difficult when the underlying issues have not been addressed.
Some fall by the wayside and end up homeless, leaving them in another type of war zone that each must survive every day. Such outcomes may lead to petty crimes or more serious felonies, creating additional strain on a veteran already down on his or her luck.
The Veterans Court of San Diego
In 2014, to assist defendants who were veterans, a new penal code was signed into law, California Penal Code § 1001.80, that would divert these defendants through the Military Diversion Program of the Veterans Court. The first criteria for this were that the defendant was or still is, a member of the military.
The second criteria were that these defendants suffered from any number of traumatic experiences, including brain trauma, substance abuse, and subsequent mental health issues. Defendants could apply for Veterans Court and it was up to the initial court to determine the defendant’s eligibility for Veterans Court and the program. Cases of arson, required sex registration or required prison sentences are not eligible. The Veterans Court meets every two weeks to handle cases.
The program is designed to match up with individual needs, and the defendant is monitored through court hearings. Those who successfully go through the program can have their records wiped clean. For those who are unsuccessful, the chance of going to prison looms larger.
In 2017, the penal code was further revised by Senate Bill SB-725, to include driving under the influence (DUI) cases, as alcohol abuse was another offshoot of service members self-medicating their traumas.
Typical Veteran Participants
Many soldiers, past and present, have been model citizens and war-time warriors. The brutal ripping of a soldier’s life from one type of living and being proud of one’s service, to that of a person searching for a job just to survive, is a brutal sudden transition. Suicide rates have been reported in the news between 20 to 22 soldiers every day across all military services. This also includes active service members, according to the Star and Stripes military publication online.
Therefore, it is important to help veterans when they are having problems and making mistakes that become legal issues. The goal is to rescue our warriors before they are lost into the prison system.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime and who may fit the criteria for the Veterans Court, give us a call for a consultation. 619-234-2300