The California legislature has provided some relief for our combat veterans. In Orange County there is a Community Courts Program that provides, in part, for an alternative sentencing program for veterans of our Armed Forces who have served in combat. The goal of the Combat Veteran’s Court is not to punish the veterans who commit crimes but to assist them by providing a treatment plan coordinated by representatives of the mental health services offices and the Veteran’s Administration. The staff of the Combat Veteran’s Court is dedicated to restoring our injured combat veterans to their former healthy selves.
To be eligible for the Combat Veteran’s Court the veteran must have been in actual combat. The veteran must be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as a result of the combat they participated in during their service. Not everyone will qualify. If the combat veteran commits a crime, the crime must have been committed as a result of the PTSD or TBI. The crime can’t just be committed without any connection to the combat service.
The Combat Veteran’s Court has mental health professionals who evaluate the individual defendant’s mental status to determine if the veteran is suffering from a combat related disorder. Some crimes will disqualify the veteran as well. Violent felonies as defined in the Penal Code may disqualify the veteran from participating. Each case must be evaluated on its own merits. Don’t let the policy considerations of the court discourage you, the veteran, from seeking the Combat Veteran’s Court services.
The Law Offices of Rudolph E. Loewenstein recently was successful in getting a very deserving combat veteran into the Combat Veteran’s Court program. The District Attorney also has a role and can dispute the admission into the program, as they did in my case, but the District Attorney does not control the court. The Court decides the issue of admission with input from the mental health representatives, Veteran Administration personnel, as well as the District Attorney.
The important thing to remember is that our combat veterans deserve our compassion, understanding, and devotion of resources to pay them back for the sacrifices they made to make our lives safer. The Combat Veteran’s Court gives them a chance to obtain counseling and treatment rather than jail and punishment.