A day in the Lake County Veteran’s Treatment and Assistance Court (VTAC) begins with the very compassionate Judge John Phillips selecting one of the veterans to lead the pledge of allegiance. After that, Judge Phillips hears status updates from veterans on how they are progressing through the program.
The Lake County Veterans Court began in 2011 to help veterans avoid jail time and stay out of trouble by providing support for their special needs, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. The program uses a team approach which includes the Court, Veteran’s Administration, Adult Probation Services, Health Department, and other community agencies and volunteers.
“These agencies work together to provide veteran offenders services to address their needs through treatment interventions, rather than incarceration," states the program fact sheet.
To participate, you must first be screened for eligibility. The program only accepts probation-eligible felony offenses, misdemeanors, or DUIs. If your crime involves a victim, your victim must consent to your participation (although violent offenses that result in death or severe injury are ineligible). You must also qualify for Veterans Benefits and Services.
And you must be willing to work hard. The program is rigorous. Your commitment can last 12 to 30 months. Besides remaining drug and alcohol free, you may need to appear regularly at court dates, submit to random drug testing, perform community service, pay fines, hold a job, and pursue recommended substance abuse or other treatments.
If you successfully complete the program, you may graduate and your charges may be dismissed. Failing to stay clean, however, could result in the very jail time you were trying to avoid.
If you are a veteran charged with a crime, consult an experienced criminal or DUI attorney immediately. Participating in VTAC means pleading guilty to your offense. An attorney can evaluate your situation to determine your best option. Perhaps the evidence against you is weak or the police acted improperly, and therefore, you might be better served by fighting your case. In certain circumstances, the attorney may bring a motion to dismiss the evidence against you. Even if VTAC is your best option, an attorney can help you navigate through the system.
For more information, see http://newssun.suntimes.com/lifestyles/18334328-423/first-graduation-of-veterans-court-set-for-march-15.html.
If you have a question about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email [email protected].
(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)