Collin County, FL has recently provided a new option for veterans that have been charged with a criminal offense, as an alternative to the normal prosecution process.
In 2009, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs released a report that suggested nearly 10% of all those arrested had served in the military. Because of this startling statistic, Collin County has decided to create a Veterans’ Court at the request of John Roach Jr., a judge of one of the district courts and a former Marine. The goal of this court is to give veterans a second chance since they often incur combat-related mental impairments that are related to the crime with which they are charged. Those who opt go through the Veterans’ Court would have to complete their program as an alternative to going to jail. Currently there are 70,000 veterans nationwide, however only those who have experienced combat could be eligible for this opportunity.
The Collin County District Attorney will be able to decide who can participate on a case by case basis. Those charged with a serious felony or who were dishonorably discharged will be excluded from the Veterans’ Court, as well as most cases of violent crimes. If participants successfully complete the program, then their case would be dismissed and their records would be expunged. The veteran would then retain his or her right to carry a weapon, right to vote, and could deny that the arrest happened.
While the county has not released guidelines on how the program is to be implemented, there are many other existing examples of veterans’ courts as well as state requirements on how it is to function. Other similar courts have implemented a heavily supervised treatment that includes multiple weekly court appointments and treatments. If program rules are violated, then the offenders would be required to complete a stricter form of the program, and would eventually get a substantial prison sentence if non-compliance is continued.
The state requirements for this type of Veteran’s Court, according to Article 617 of the Health and Safety Code, is also lengthy. The Collin County Veterans’ Court must utilize the following practices:
According to Judge Roach, this program is an important step in helping vets rehabilitate from their experiences in war. It also provides a way for the country to give back to those who have honorably sacrificed for their nation. The veterans’ program focuses on curing these individuals long-term, rather than punishing them for a crime that their combat experience played a part in helping them commit. Upon its opening, Roach expects that there will be anywhere from 5-15 veterans in the program at one time. Collin County is currently the largest county in Florida that does not have a veteran’s court. In order that Florida will not be losing money, the program will be paid for by court filing fees.