Can Veterans in Felony and Misdemeanor Cases Receive Help and avoid jail?
Yes. In 2015, the Chief Judge of the circuit court in Hillsborough County entered an order significantly expanding treatment resources available to veterans who are charged with both misdemeanor and felony criminal offenses. Prior to this order only misdemeanor charges were eligible for this opportunity to have charges dismissed. The court noted that there were a large number of veterans suffering from military service related mental illnesses, traumatic brain injuries, substance abuse issues, and psychological issues that may have caused them to enter the criminal justice system. The history of the Treatment Court can be found here. Help for veterans is available.
What are the terms of the admission to this veterans treatment court program?
The terms of the admission to this program are contained in a memorandum of understanding that details the processing of cases in Veterans treatment court. In Circuit Court and County Criminal Court, the court is designated as division “V”. The program requires waving speedy trial, since failure to complete the program results in the case being refiled in criminal court. Sometimes veterans are placed in a treatment program by a licensed service provider and failure to comply with the treatment professional’s conditions can be enforced by contempt of court – that can include jail. The defendant must attend court hearings set by the veterans treatment Court judge and participate in assessment and treatment to help move the case to dismissal.
Who is eligible for Veteran’s Treatment Court?
The eligible charges are ordinance violations, misdemeanor offenses other than DUI, and nonviolent third degree felony offenses. Felony DUI is excluded from the program, so there will not be any relief there. If the court unsuccessfully discharges the veteran from the program, the case is transferred back to the criminal division where it was originally filed. Generally, veterans treatment court helps treat veterans with honor and respect and is modeled after principles of therapeutic jurisprudence. In other words, instead of sending people to jail, we send them to get help.
Can active-duty military personnel get help in the Veterans Treatment Court?
A key component of this program is that the defendant must be willing to accept help. After completing this program records can be sealed or expunged under Florida Statute 943.058. Such a sealing of records is handled by the judge that originally handled the case in veterans treatment court. Florida Statute 250.01 defines active duty military, and some of these people may be also helped by the treatment court, notwithstanding the fact that they are not technically veterans under many other legal definitions.