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Veterans Court at a Glance

Key Highlights of Veterans Court

A sad reality that many people aren’t aware of is that veterans experience battles both on and off the battlefield. They return home with physical, mental and emotional wounds that often go untreated. Some veterans feel guilty that they returned home safely while others did not, and many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, insomnia and more. Unfortunately, these issues can have life-altering effects for veterans.

Furthermore, many people erroneously assume that only “combat” veterans can suffer from PTSD and other mental health ailments: the most frequently asked question (posed by both Judges and District Attorneys) during criminal proceedings is whether a Veteran is a “Combat” Veteran. The question is biased and it is not appropriate to determine whether a Veteran is deserving of Veterans’ Court enrollment. All Veterans undergo rigorous training and sacrifice tremendously for our freedom, and while some experience “combat” very closely, the reality is that most Veterans have been deployed and have experienced fear and anxiety as a result of their deployment.

To illustrate this, let’s look at the story of Jack.

Jack is a veteran who was honorably discharged and received service-connected disability but failed to enroll in the Veterans Affairs services. He abused drugs and alcohol, isolated himself from his family and became homeless. A few years ago, Jack stole $15.34 worth of peanut butter and jelly and got arrested shortly after. Although he pleaded guilty to felony robbery, Jack was eligible for Veterans Court, a program that offered him a second chance.

What Is Veterans Court & How Does It Work?

Veterans Court is a type of specialty court that aims to reduce criminal recidivism and foster healthier communities. It can be assigned on a diversionary basis, which allows the conviction to get sealed upon successful completion of the program, or as a condition of probation. In most cases, all veterans qualify for Veterans Court but may not qualify for they didn’t receive an honorable or general discharge. Qualified defendants can expect to undergo the following process:

  • The defense counsel submits a program application and provides an evaluation of the defendant’s substance use and/or mental health
  • A multi-disciplinary team will then review the application, considering whether there is a connection between the alleged offense, the service and the disorder in question
  • After hearing sentencing arguments from the defense, prosecution, victim and defendant, the Veterans Court will make a decision and file an acceptance or rejection leader accordingly

Where the Problem Lies

While Veterans Court is a significant step towards breaking the cycle of the “revolving door syndrome,” veterans who are deemed violent offenders can suffer strict barriers to getting admitted into Veterans Court on a diversionary basis. Jack, for instance, was labeled a “violent offender” because robbery is defined as a crime of violence. At the time of his arrest, the law required violent offenders to get a stipulation from the district attorney (DA) for admittance into Veterans Court. The DA in Jack’s case did not stipulate, and he was one of the many veterans stuck in this unfortunate position.

One Supreme Court ruling and Assembly Bill later, the eligibility issue for veterans was resolved. Assembly Bill 222 clarified that veterans charged with offenses other than the following crimes are eligible for a judge to determine whether they get assigned to Veterans Court:

  • Category A felony
  • Category B sexual offense
  • An offense that carries a mandatory prison sentence

While AB 222 resolved pressing issues for veterans, some issues have yet to be resolved. In Nevada, defendants must enter a plea and then await their sentencing hearing to be assigned to Veterans Court. The time between the plea and sentencing hearing is dangerous for many veterans, like Jack. He used illegal substances, failed to appear at court hearings and did not have the resources to maintain stable housing, sobriety or control of his mental health problems.

A viable solution to this issue is to allow pre-prosecution diversion on felony charges, allowing eligible defendants to get the services and support they need at the beginning of the criminal justice process rather than at sentencing, which can occur months later. Should this solution be implemented, more veterans can enjoy the success that Jack is now experiencing. He described Veterans Court as a “complete mind, body and spirit” transformation that helped him rehabilitate his health and even reunite him with his family.

Our Veteran Defense Attorney Has Your Best Interests at the Forefront

Our Las Vegas veteran defense lawyer understands that reintegrating into civilian life is an internal war in itself. We are compassionate to our veteran clients’ circumstances, driving us to go above and beyond to fight for their freedom like they have for Americans.

Our attorney will relentlessly negotiate with the State to secure Veterans Court on a diversionary basis to allow clients who successfully complete the program to get their records sealed. If that’s not possible, we will formulate a strategy that can help clients access Veterans Court as a condition of probation. Ultimately, we will fight to afford our clients access to Veterans Court as soon as possible, beginning from when they encounter the criminal justice system.

To learn more about how our Las Vegas veteran defense lawyer can help you, contact the Law Office of David R. Fischer at today! We proudly offer veteran discounts.