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Due to the difficult circumstances and situations in which they often find themselves during their service, many veterans return to civilian life as changed people. They can feel isolated, alone, overwhelmed by their experiences, and even traumatized by their memories. This may lead to them becoming involved in criminal affairs or legal trouble.

In fact, statistics show that veterans who struggle with mental health issues or addictions upon their return home have a higher likelihood to get into legal trouble. The Veterans Court in California aims to provide some kind of solution to this problem, giving veterans another way out, rather than forcing them through the traditional path of the criminal justice system.

What Is Veterans Court in California?

In simple terms, Veterans Court in California is a special program that is available to certain former members of the military who find themselves facing criminal charges. The aim of the Veterans Court program is to give veterans a way to avoid jail time and a criminal record by providing the veterans with certain treatments and services, like court-ordered rehab and counseling.

veterans court program

Provided that the veteran in question meets the Veterans Court requirements, they can be accepted into the program and essentially placed on probation. They will then be required to complete four phases of the program. If they successfully complete the program, the veteran can withdraw their plea and the case can be dismissed by a judge.

In other words, the Veterans Court program represents a good opportunity for any veteran who might find themselves facing a prison sentence. Instead of having to go behind bars, the person can get their whole case dismissed, as well as get some help with rehabilitation, with the help of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, as long as they meet the Veterans Court eligibility requirements.

How Does Veterans Treatment Court Operate?

The Veterans Court treatment program is quite complex, but structured. Participants are supported by their own team of specialists, including veteran mentors, a judge, a probation officer, and counselors. These professionals help and support the patient during the four phases of their treatment:

  1. The first phase is usually regarded as the hardest. It involves a full evaluation of the veteran and a customized plan tailored to their needs, which lasts around four months. It involves weekly court meetings, progress reports, random drug testing, and more.
  2. The second phase is a lot like the first, but a little lighter in terms of the number of meetings and reports. It lasts around three months.
  3. Phase three of the program involves fewer tests and meetings, running for a total of five months.
  4. Finally, the last phase is designed to help the veteran return to regular life. It still involves some meetings and treatments, but usually concludes with job training offers, education, and other services.

Am I Eligible for Veterans Court in California?

Veterans Court eligibility is something that any veteran will need to be clear on before taking part in the program. You have to meet certain Veterans Court requirements, and the requirements for Veterans Treatment Courts can actually vary from court to court.

In general, these criteria need to be met:

  • The individual needs to have served in the armed forces
  • (Army, Navy, etc.) They must have pleaded guilty in a criminal case
  • They must be suffering from some kind of injury or health problem, like traumatic brain injury, PTSD, MST, or something else
  • They must agree to participate in the program

The program exists to assist veteran people in need of help, but it does have some limitations. Those involved in sex or gang-related crimes may not qualify, for example. A criminal defense lawyer can help you find out more about eligibility.

Who Is Eligible for Military Diversion?

It’s important to note that the Veterans Court Diversion Program, or Military Diversion, is not the same as a regular Veterans Court. The Veterans Court Diversion Program is for veterans charged with a misdemeanor who has not been previously convicted of anything similar and have not had any diversion in the past.

veterans treatment court

How Do I Apply for Veterans Court in California?

If you want to apply for Veterans Court DUI or some other criminal charge, the process will vary depending on your local jurisdiction. The best thing to do is contact an attorney and find out about your eligibility. Your attorney will then be able to request the court to allow you onto the program.

Typically, the court will order some kind of mental health assessment or evaluation, and the judge will meet the applicant and their defense team to learn more about them before deciding whether to admit them to the program or not.

The process is usually quite quick and easy in some cases. For example, if a Veterans Court DUI claimant has a history of drinking problems, the case should be clear to see. But other cases can be more difficult to evaluate and take longer.

Does My Jurisdiction Offer a Veterans Court in California?

There are over 20 courts in California that authorize Veterans’ Treatment Programs, with more than 100 locations up and down the state. Contact our professionals today to find out if your jurisdiction provides this veterans service.


Shaheen Manshoory
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