ACTIVE-DUTY MILITARY AND VETERAN LEGAL DEFENSE
We represent both active duty service-members and veterans in criminal defense cases.
In 2016, seven percent of U.S. adults were veterans. Many of those veterans suffer from mental health issues as a result of that service, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Military Sexual Trauma (MST).
After willingly putting their lives at risk, veterans have earned special consideration in the criminal justice system during both sentencing and the plea bargaining process.
This special consideration can take the form of alternative sentencing and restorative relief, diversion in misdemeanor cases, and mitigating felony sentences.
Both Bruce and Matt come from military families and respect military service. In recognition of the sacrifices our men and women in the military make, our firm offers discounted legal services to active duty military service-members and veterans.
Active military or veteran status can effect sentencing and plea deals in both misdemeanor and felony cases. Certain statues in the California Penal Code, particularly PC 1170.9 and 1001.80, help veterans with post-conviction relief, plea negotiations, and sentencing considerations.
PC 1001.80 – MISDEMEANOR MILITARY DIVERSION
For example, PC 1001.80 known as “military diversion” is relevant during the pretrial or pre-plea steps of misdemeanor crimes, including DUI allegations. Authorized by California PC 1001.80, military diversion — a form of pretrial diversion — grants judges the ability to postpone prosecution while the veteran receives treatment for mental health issues or substance abuse, or fines and fees may be reduced. There is no requirement of connection, like mental health issue or substance abuse problem, to the offense. After completing the diversion program, the veteran’s charges will dismissed, so when applying for a job — other than peace officer — they do not have to reveal the arrest or diversion.
Conditions for the diversion program, which usually last between 12 and 24 months, may include the following: attendance at treatment sessions, domestic violence and/or substance abuse counseling, random alcohol and/or drug testing, and progress reports from the administering agency.
The court, additionally, can hold a hearing at any time if the veteran is earning unsatisfactory progress reports or not benefitting from the treatment and services. In that situation, the court may end the diversion program before it is completed and return to prosecution against the veteran.
Although the diversion program includes misdemeanor DUI cases, the veteran’s driver’s license may not necessarily be returned after the successful completion of the program. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can still suspend the veteran’s driver’s license and take other administrative action.
In order to be placed in a pretrial diversion program after both the court and defendant agree, the veteran’s criminal defense lawyer will typically request diversion from the court. Then, the court may ask for an assessment to help it make a decision. They are looking to see whether the veteran’s substance abuse or mental health issues have surfaced due to military service and whether they would benefit from treatment.
PC 1170.9 – MILITARY CONSIDERATION IN SENTENCING
On the other hand, PC 1170.9 applies to the period of post-conviction — after the veteran has been found guilty of felony or misdemeanor crimes. Its purpose is to mitigate probation terms and offer restorative relief including early probation termination, fines and fees waiver, reduction, expungement, and record sealing. The veteran must show that the offense was a result of mental health issues or substance abuse that stemmed from military service.
To determine eligibility, the court must hold a hearing, and the judge will then determine if the veteran can be ordered to complete treatment rather than sentenced to jail or prison. The veteran, to qualify, must be eligible for probation, so this statue does not cover all cases; violent and serious felony crimes committed while the veteran is on felony probation prohibits the veteran from receiving probation.
Another form of diversion can be found in California’s “Veteran’s Courts” in the Superior Courts in Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino. Like military diversion programs, these courts offer veterans more structure and supervision. Personalized treatment plans that are made by a team: judge, District Attorney, criminal defense attorney, Veterans Administration caseworker, and service providers.
By working together to ensure a comprehensive plan for the veteran, these special terms aim to solve the underlying issues of substance abuse or mental health problems that may have resulted in the criminal act. After the veteran has successfully completed the program, the court usually dismisses the charge(s).
If you or a loved one are a veteran in need of support please take the time to look into these available resources.
This organization offers veterans with crisis helplines, listings of organizations that assist veterans with employment, housing and homelessness, health and addiction, social support, and transportation.
The HUD-Vash Program in Los Angeles offers long-term case management, clinical/supportive services, and permanent housing help for homeless veterans.
The Veterans Service Center in Downtown Los Angeles (Skid Row) provides veterans with basic needs, such as food, AA/NA support, respite and detox beds, and wrap-around services that include three meals per day, showers, legal aid, housing, and laundry.
This resource provides support to veterans by filling in their ZIP code or state to find suicide prevention coordinators; community-crisis centers; VA Medical Centers that offer mental health care, diagnostics, homeless and alcohol/drug abuse programs, nursing home, and respite care, outpatient clinics that provide primary case, counseling, laboratory analysis, prescriptions, and radiology services; Veterans Benefit Administration Offices that offer services to veterans seeking benefits related to compensation, pension, home loans, disability, and employment; Vet Centers that offer readjustment counseling and outreach services to all veterans and their families.