Veterans have served our country honorably and they deserve our support when facing troubling times in their lives. After serving in one of the branches of the U.S. Military, veterans often return home with serious physical and mental health issues. Often times these health issues go untreated or undiagnosed and the veteran is forced to deal with their health problems all on their own. Trying to deal with serious physical or mental health issues on your own is nearly impossible, even for our brave veterans. It is no surprise then that some veterans find themselves involved in run-ins with the law. Sometimes veterans get involved in violent altercations and some turn to drugs and alcohol, but the result can be the same–the veteran gets involved in the criminal justice system. There are thousands of brave men and women veterans across California charged with criminal offenses that need help. California recognized the need to help its veterans caught in the criminal justice system and developed a program designed specifically for veterans called Veteran’s Treatment Court.
California Penal Code section 1170.9 established alternatives to sentencing criteria for military veterans convicted of a criminal offense. Rather than force veterans to serve their sentence in jail or prison, courts have the discretion to place veterans in local, state, federal, or private nonprofit treatment programs where veterans can get the treatment they so desperately need. However, there are certain eligibility requirements that a veteran must meet before they can participate in Veteran’s Treatment Court. To be eligible under Penal Code section 1170.9, the court must find that the veteran defendant:
- Is a veteran of the United States Military
- Suffers from service -related trauma as specified in section 1170.9(a)
- Committed the charged offense as a result of the trauma
- The defendant is eligible for probation
- The defendant must agree to participate in treatment
As stated above, the veteran must suffer from “service-related trauma.” The statute is intended to provide treatment to veterans who commit criminal offenses as a result of sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems stemming from service in the United States Military. If the veteran meets all of the eligibility requirements, then the court may allow the veteran to participate in the Veteran’s Treatment Court.
The good news is that if the veteran defendant completes the Veteran’s Treatment Court, the veteran can receive great benefits from participating in the program. If the defendant complies with all conditions of probation, successfully completes treatment, does not pose a danger to the community, and has demonstrated significant benefit from treatment, a court may:
- Deem all conditions of probation satisfied and terminate probation early
- Reduce a felony conviction to a misdemeanor conviction
- Grant a dismissal of the criminal conviction
Military Diversion is a unique program which allows a former or current military member charged with certain misdemeanor offenses to be diverted from the criminal process and avoid a conviction by allowing them to obtain treatment. If the military member successfully completes treatment and does not reoffend, the court will dismiss the criminal charges against them entirely and will seal the member’s arrest record.
California adopted this diversion program, codified in Penal Code section 1001.80, because it recognized that our country’s veterans deserve a second chance. The men and women who have fought bravely for our country often return home with both mental and physical challenges as a result of their service. Often times these health issues go untreated or undiagnosed and the veteran is forced to deal with their health problems all on their own. It is no surprise then that some veterans find themselves involved in run-ins with the law. Sometimes veterans get involved in violent altercations and some turn to drugs and alcohol, but the result can be the same–the veteran gets involved in the criminal justice system. Military Diversion was formed so that a military member charged with a crime can obtain the treatment they need instead of having a criminal conviction on their record.
In order to qualify for Military Diversion, the military member must meet certain requirements. A military member can qualify for diversion if they meet the following criteria:
1) The person was, or currently is, a member of the United States military; and
2) The military member may be suffering from a specified listed condition (see below) as a result of his or her military service; and
3) The military member consents to being placed on Penal Code section 1001.80 diversion and waives her or her rights to a speedy trial; and
4) Granting the requested diversion conforms to the applicable principles of law governing a grant of diversion.
The first requirement is rather straightforward and easy to satisfy. The military member simply needs to provide sufficient proof to the court that they were, or currently are, a member of the United States military. The second requirement, however, is sometimes more difficult to satisfy. A “listed condition” as specified under the Penal Code section 1001.80 can be sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems that the member suffers from as a result of his or her military service. A member can usually satisfy this requirement simply by providing a diagnoses or some sort of documentation showing a listed condition so long as the condition was a result of the member’s military service.After satisfying the first two requirements, the member must then consent to the terms of diversion. Diversion is an incredible opportunity because the member never has to plead guilty to any criminal offense. Instead, if diversion is granted, the criminal proceedings are suspended and the member is ordered to enroll in some sort of treatment program and ordered to complete the program no later than two years after diversion is granted. The type of treatment program is highly dependent on the needs of each individual member and the court generally allows great flexibility in choosing a treatment program. If the member successfully completes treatment and has performed satisfactorily during the period of diversion, the criminal charges shall be dismissed. Moreover, upon successful completion of a diversion program, the arrest upon which the diversion was based shall also be deemed to have never occurred.
The attorneys at Hepburn, Hernandez, and Jung take great pride in helping California’s veterans. We believe that those who served our country deserve not only our gratitude, but our support in their times of need. HHJ Trial Attorneys has helped countless veterans put their criminal pasts behind them by helping them obtain the treatment they need to get their life back on track. If you are a veteran and have been charged with a criminal offense, contact Hepburn, Hernandez, and Jung Trial Attorneys today and let us help you overcome this challenging period of your life.