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Program Offers Alternative for Veterans in Criminal Cases

Posted on in Criminal Law

Program Offers Alternative for Veterans in Criminal CasesPast and present members of the U.S. military who are facing criminal charges can utilize an Illinois judicial program that may help them avoid serious criminal punishment. A Veterans and Servicemembers Court may allow a defendant to go through a rehabilitation program instead of the possible jail time that comes with a conviction. At the end of the program, the defendant is eligible to have the charges removed from his or her record. 

Reasons for the Program

Illinois lawmakers passed the Veterans and Servicemembers Court Treatment Act as a way to show compassion to people who are struggling with the effects of their military service. Military members are recognized to be at increased risk of:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Traumatic brain injuries;
  • Substance abuse; and
  • Depression.

These conditions can affect a person’s behavior and lead to an alleged criminal offense. A Veterans and Servicemembers Court tries to help military veterans recover instead of seeking the maximum punishment for their charges.

Qualifications

Not all criminal cases involving current or former military members are eligible for a rehabilitation program through the Veterans and Servicemembers Court. If not an active servicemember, the veteran must have been honorably discharged from the military. The court may also deny participation in the program if:

  • The criminal charge is violent in nature;
  • The defendant was convicted of a violent crime in the past 10 years;
  • Conviction of the criminal charge does not allow probation; or
  • The defendant appears unwilling to cooperate in the program.

How the Program Works

In order to participate in a rehabilitation program through the Veterans and Servicemembers Court, the defendant must in exchange plead guilty to the charges. The court will order the defendant to undergo a screening through a state or federal Veterans Affairs office. If the screening determines the defendant is suitable for the program, the court may order the defendant to participate in:

  • Mental health counseling;
  • Substance abuse treatment; and/or
  • A mentorship program with a local veterans association.

If the defendant does not cooperate or show progress during the program, he or she may need to return to court for further prosecution or sentencing. Upon completion of the program, the court may dismiss the criminal charges.

Resources for Veterans

Rehabilitation through the Veterans and Servicemembers Court is one option that current and former military members have during criminal prosecution. The defendant can also contest the charges and try for a not-guilty verdict. A McHenry County criminal defense attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can advise you on which option may be best in your case. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

Source:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3231&ChapterID=55

Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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