Veterans Court takes veterans with misdemeanor and felony convictions and places them on a separate track, giving them treatment designed especially for veterans.
Defendants in the program are closely monitored with regular court hearings and supported by Veterans Affairs and other community-based organizations. Participants are rewarded for success, and penalized for non-compliance with the rules. Only veterans who committed crimes as a result of a mental illness related to military service are eligible for the Court.
The program is a collaborative effort between the Superior Court, District Attorney’s Office, Defense Bar, treatment providers, and the California Veterans Legal Task Force.
Participants are carefully screened and placed into programs that will give them the tools to treat mental health issues and become productive citizens. Many vets cope with problems when they return home from a deployment and must work to readjust to civilian life as well as to injuries and psychological problems, which can lead to substance abuse or issues with the law.
To be considered for Veterans Court, defendants must have prior or current military service and be able to show some type of mental health issue related to their service (post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, etc.). Trauma from combat is not always required. However, there must be a connection between the criminal offense and a military related mental health issue. Prior to acceptance into Veteran’s Court, each case must be screened and approved by a selection committee, which meets twice per month. Cases involving arson, sex registration, or prison sentences are not eligible.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Roger Krauel presides over Veterans Court, which meets every two weeks.
For more information, visit www.courts.ca.gov.