What happens when veterans end up in court?

Is there a veterans’ court?

Yes, in Massachusetts, veterans’ treatment courts are available for people charged with crimes who have a history of military service. Veterans’ courts are designed to help veterans’ struggling from mental health and substance abuse issues to rehabilitate and avoid jail time.

In Massachusetts, there are five veterans’ courts:

  • Norfolk County Veterans Treatment Court (Dedham)
  • Boston Veterans Court (Boston)
  • Essex County Veterans Treatment Court (Lawrence)
  • Middlesex County Veterans Treatment Court (Framingham)
  • Western Massachusetts Veterans Treatment Court (Holyoke)

What are the benefits of veterans’ court?

Veterans’ treatment courts provide many benefits for people with a history of military service.

Most importantly, veterans’ courts ensure that servicemen and women who appear before them are facing judges who have a better understanding of where they are coming from. Veterans’ courts judges typically have extensive experience working with veterans and are supported by a team of representatives from important rehabilitation services like:

  • Veterans Health Administration: has access to confidential medical records and makes treatment appointments
  • Veterans Benefit Administration: ensures that veterans receive disability compensation and education and training benefits if they qualify
  • State Department of Veteran Affairs: ensures that veterans are aware of local and state resources available to them for support and rehabilitation
  • Volunteer veteran mentors: assigned to veterans to provide them emotional and moral support as they rehabilitate

Taking advantage of the opportunities available in veterans’ court stops the negative consequences of being convicted of a crime from being on your record. Having a conviction could have a negative impact on future education and employment opportunities in addition to relationships.

What is the veterans’ court program?

The veterans’ court program is a form of pretrial diversion. Pretrial diversion is a type of deal which lets a person avoid the criminal justice system in exchange for a promise to complete a rehabilitation program. Thanks to a law passed in April 2018 called the Criminal Justice Reform Act, diversion programs have been expanded so now all adults have a chance at qualifying.

The current law on veterans’ court diversion is called the BRAVE Act. The BRAVE Act was signed into law by the governor in July 2018 to replace the 2012 Valor Act. The Valor Act was created to give veterans returning home from combat with substance abuse and mental health problems a way to get help without being stuck in the criminal justice system.

The Valor Act was repealed because it was believed that the legislation was making it too easy for veterans to avoid punishment for assault charges. Fortunately, under the BRAVE Act, there are still many ways of qualifying for pretrial diversion.

How do you qualify for veterans’ court?

To qualify for veterans’ court diversion in Massachusetts, a probation officer must first confirm your status as a veteran or active duty service member. Probation will also make sure that you have never been diverted for another charge before.

The court will then conduct a 30-day assessment of the person requesting diversion. During this assessment, the court will look into the person’s medical records. To qualify for diversion, a veteran must be “clinically diagnosed” with at least one of the following:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Serious mental illness

Contact a lawyer to learn more about what makes a veteran eligible for veterans’ treatment court diversion.

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE THINK YOU MAY QUALIFY FOR VETERANS’ COURT, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.

CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.

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