Some organizations and legal professionals have attempted to assist our military heroes in trouble with the law. Their tool is the Veterans Treatment Court. According to Justice for Vets, "The Veterans Treatment Court model requires regular court appearances (a bi-weekly minimum in the early phases of the program), as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions and frequent and random testing for substance use (drug and/or alcohol)."
Why is a Veterans Treatment Court better than any other criminal court? The experience of a Judge is important in every case. Legal professionals are increasingly focused on particular areas of law, which require specialized training whether in the form a Masters of Law or past work experience like that of a military JAG. The training continues in practice when lawyers attend specialized Continuing Legal Education (CLE). At this point, not every jurisdiction will have a past military lawyer sitting as a Judge, however. A Veterans Treatment Court is a positive step because a Judge can acquire knowledge through CLE courses and repetition of Veterans cases. As a result, the lawyers save time educating inexperienced Judges, and the Judges are more likely to know the resources available to treat Veterans.
A Court should not have a one size fits all Order for Veterans. Veterans might need therapy for PTSD symptoms, or they might benefit from a clinic that helps apply for benefits, or a family law professional might provide assistance with custody and support issues. Without these resources, our military heroes are likely feeling hopeless, leading some to resort to crime. So far, some Veterans Treatment Courts have government representatives with access to confidential records and benefits representatives available to assist courts and Veterans on the spot. Volunteer mentors are even available to help with navigating a day in Court and to support Veterans in the recovery process.
How can we ensure the existence of more Veterans Treatment Courts? Take the opportunity to contact your local officials. Write a letter or email to your local alderman or representative. Even the local Bar association and Chief Judge could be of assistance with organizing a docket to handle Veterans cases. They usually have the inclination to help Veterans, but it is up to all of us to work together to implement these effective Courts.
Disclaimer: This article is intended only to provide general legal information. It does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consult a licensed attorney in your area if you are in need of legal advice.