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Alternatives to jail for veterans charged with crimes

Specialty rehab courts, such as drug court with a focus on treatment, are not a new concept. Those directed specifically toward veterans and the unique issues they face are.

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In 2008, New York established the first veterans' court program in the country. Texas was not far behind and started its own version in 2009. Today, there are several of these programs across North Texas. The Harris County Veterans' Court (HCVC) program helps vets address mental health issues and provides treatment for addiction.

When is veterans' court an option?

Eligibility is tied to service in the armed forces with the acknowledgement that return to civilian life is often difficult after combat tours and the structure of military life. Service in the reserves, National Guard and state guard also qualifies. Mistakes may involve misdirected anger that turns to violence against family members. A disagreement in a bar might turn physical and result in assault charges. Depression could lead to drug abuse and a possession offense.

The veterans' court program is available to those charged with both misdemeanor and felony-level offenses. There must be some indication that the veteran or current military member suffers:

  • A traumatic brain injury (TBI);
  • Mental illness, including bi-polar, anxiety or severe depression; or 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The condition must have been caused by the time in a combat zone or hazardous duty area. Then, the PTSD or severe depression needs to have played a role in the criminal conduct at issue.

Referral needed

Many people may not realize that these resources are available and may avoid or reduce a jail sentence. An experienced local defense attorney can help to get a referral to the court from any of the 22 Harris County Criminal District Courts.

If admitted into the program, an assigned team includes your attorney and a case manager/probation officer. A Judge will also generally take an active role. The team is devoted to addressing tough circumstances that may have damaged relationship, resulted in unemployment or homelessness, involved long-term drug or alcohol abuse and/or domestic violence.

The success stories from these programs show that rehabilitative programs work and that a mistake does not need to derail your life.

If you are past or current military service member facing criminal charges that stem from a struggle with PTSD, physical disability or addition there is hope. Speak with Ken or Judy at the Mingledorff Law Firm and they will leverage their decades of criminal defense experience to obtain the best possible outcome for you.

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