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Veterans Court opened its doors on September 13, 2010. It is a pilot program designed to address those charged with felony court cases who have served honorably in the United States military. Veterans Court is an alternative to state prison and joins other alternative sentencing programs currently under the administration of Judge Michael Tynan in Department 642 at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Veterans Court is a collaborative effort between the Superior Court, District Attorney, Public Defender, Alternate Public Defender and the Department of Veterans Affairs (hereinafter the VA). The court may accept cases from any court in the County following an eligiblity and suitability screening process.
The Veterans Court program accepts those Veterans who have served in the United States military; are entitled to benefits through the VA; and suffer from any of the following disorders that are related to their military service:
Generally, consideration for the program is available only to Veterans currently charged with non-serious, nonviolent felonies and who have no prior strikes. An exception may be sought from the District Attorney’s Director of Central Operations by the deputy district attorney assigned to Veterans Court for veterans who are suitable but otherwise ineligible due to pending charges or prior convictions.
Potential participants are evaluated by the VA for suitability and, if suitable, a recommendation for the program and services best suited to address the treatment needs of the Veteran will be identified and submitted for consideration to the court. VA treatment and services can include those for mental health, physical health, substance abuse, housing and job development.
If accepted into the Veterans Court program, the VA will provide supervision of the Veteran and report to the court on the Veteran’s progress in the program. Treatment will be ordered to be completed through a program selected from a series of providers approved by the VA. Benefits available through the VA cover most expenses of the selected program. The Veteran will be ordered to complete the recommended treatment program and comply with any other terms and conditions of probation imposed by the court for a minimum period of 18 months. The time frames for future court appearances will be adjusted as appropriate to meet each individual Veteran’s needs and ensure compliance with the goals of the program. The court has approximately 75 participants at any given time and has held tw 16 graduations. The guidelines for this program are consistent with the mandate established under Penal Code §1170.9.