What is Veterans’ Court?
Veterans’ Court is a hybrid drug and mental health court designed to assist veterans struggling with addiction, mental illness and related disorders. The program utilizes the traditional partners found in drug and mental health courts as well as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care networks, volunteer veteran mentors, and veterans’ family support organizations.
Who is eligible for Veterans’ Court?
The basic requirements for eligibility in the program include the following:
The Criminal Charge:
The veteran must have an eligible felony or misdemeanor charge. A felony charge that would make a veteran ineligible would include drug delivery; murder; indecency with a child; aggravated kidnapping; sexual assault; robbery; injury to a child, elderly, or disabled person; and offenses with the finding of a deadly weapon.
The veteran must not have a previous conviction of the type of charge that would make the veteran currently ineligible for the program.
The veteran must either be a current member of the armed forces or have either an Honorable discharge or a General Under Honorable Conditions discharge.
Physical or Mental Condition:
The veteran must be suffering from a brain injury, mental illness, or mental disorder that:
The veteran must not have been previously terminated or have graduated from a Veterans’ Court program.
The veteran must be a legal resident of/or citizen of the United States.
How are candidates screened for enrollment?
Candidates are initially arraigned in court and then may submit their case to the Veterans’ Court program manager for consideration. The program manager together with a representative from the Department of Veterans Affairs will determine whether the veteran meets the basic eligibility requirements. If otherwise eligible, the candidate then undergoes a forensic psychiatric evaluation. The Montgomery County District Attorney’s First Assistant will make determination of rejection or acceptance into the program. Finally, the candidate must be accepted by the Veterans’ Court itself.
If accepted into the program, what happens next?
Approved veterans must normally first sign a two-year pre-trial diversion contract with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office. Generally, the veteran is then given a personal recognizance bond and their case is reset. Veterans are next required to follow a series of conditions designated by their pre-trial diversion contract with a particular emphasis on following the directives of the Veterans’ Court team. Veterans are required to attend a Veterans’ Court docket in the 359th District Court, the Honorable Judge Kathleen Hamilton presiding.
What happens if the veteran successfully fulfills all requirements of the program?
Generally, upon successful completion and graduation of the program, the charges against the veteran are dismissed. There are some cases where a participant may enter the program through a regular probation. In those cases, the charge itself will not be dismissed.
What happens if the veteran does not fulfill all requirements of the program?
If the veteran fails to fulfill a requirement of the program, the veteran may suffer sanctions. These sanctions could include anything from admonishment from the Court to short-term incarceration. Should the veteran fail to comply with the sanctions imposed or commit a serious infraction while in the program, the veteran can be terminated from the court and his or her pre-trial diversion agreement will be revoked.
How can I obtain additional information regarding the program?
For additional information, please contact the Veteran’s Court program manager at (936)539-7800.