Veterans Benefit in Criminal Court From New Law

A new California law seeks to offer veterans help in criminal cases.  AB 674 allows for treatment rather than jail, says a Veteran’s Organization. The primary focus involves veteran’s in the criminal  justice system. Duncan authored the original draft of AB 674 and he is very  passionate about its implementation. A major problem is that funding issue for programs, while always a challenge, are less so in Santa Clara County. He indicated that Judge Manley runs  a Veteran’s court, at least, once a month. Judge Manley’s coordinator is  Krisha Barrio, coordinator. He says they have a small brochure describing  the program. Thus, the lack of federal funding does not appear to be an  issue. He indicated that what was removed from the statute was a  required court hearing to determine if the veteran qualifies. Now, that  determination can be made by judge using any basis for his determination. All he  has to find is that the defendant’s mental health problems contributed to the commission of the crime and was derived from a service related incident, etc.  For example, this could even include a car accident while on duty, etc., according to one Long Beach Criminal Law Attorney

Changes in the Law:

AS PASSED BY THE ASSEMBLY , this bill:

1) Provided that in  the case of any person convicted of a criminal offense who would otherwise be sentenced to county jail or state prison and who alleges that he or she committed the offense as a result of sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury,
PTSD, substance abuse, or mental health problems stemming from service in the United States military, the court shall, prior to sentencing, make a determination as to whether the defendant was, or currently is, a member of the United States military and may request through the use of existing resources an assessment of whether the defendant may be suffering from
sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, substance abuse, or mental health problems as a result of that service.

2) Stated that if the defendant convicted of a criminal offense is a person who committed the offense as a result of sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, substance abuse, or mental health problems stemming from service in the United States military, and if the defendant is otherwise eligible for probation and the court places the defendant on probation, the court may order the defendant into a local, state, federal, or private nonprofit treatment program for a period not to exceed that which the defendant would have served in state prison or county jail, provided the defendant agrees to participate in the program and the court determines that an appropriate treatment program exists.

Here is an excerpt from a recent article in the paper

A wave of young war veterans is ending up in jail. The common thread among them appears to be Post Traumatic Stress  Disorder that leads to substance abuse and other crimes. The Veterans’  Administration says almost one-third of returning veterans have PTSD, and now some advocates believe they deserve special treatment.  Santa  Clara County Superior Court Judge Stephen Manley presides over one of about 15 “veterans’ courts” in the U.S. They began popping up last year to handle non-violent offenders.  “I have found that they are very often unaware of what benefits they have, and what their entitlements are and there is no communication between the Veterans Administration and the courts,” Manley said.  Most of the veterans are drug offenders who need constant monitoring. Manley has been forging a relationship between the courts and the VA, creating a seamless program that can follow a veteran’s progress. We have immediate action; this is just like an emergency room, we don’t wait,” Manley said

Changes in

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