What Is the Veterans Treatment Court in Sarasota and Manatee Counties?Published: Apr 20, 2018 by Erika Valcarcel
Veterans who have been charged with crimes in Manatee and Sarasota counties may qualify for an alternative to criminal prosecution known as Veterans Treatment Court. It’s a court-supervised program that combines substance abuse treatment and supervision for criminal offenders who are serving or who have formerly served in the United States armed forces. The program specifically targets veterans who have substance abuse issues or a mental health diagnosis to:
- Reduce recidivism
- Maintain public safety
- Encourage the participant’s sobriety and mental wellness
- Improve the participant’s quality of life
- Improve access to VA services and benefits
The successful completion of Veterans Treatment Court may take anywhere from six to 24 months, during which you must pay fees and comply with a wide range of requirements. Upon completion, the judge supervising your case may either reduce or dismiss the criminal charges you face. If you fail the program, your case will be prosecuted normally.
Veterans Treatment Court is a Less Expensive Alternative to Criminal Court
Although you must pay to participate in Veterans Treatment Court, the costs of doing so may be less than taking your case to the criminal court. To effectively defend yourself against a criminal prosecution, you will pay numerous costs to retain a defense attorney, and if you get convicted, you will incur additional costs such as court fees and criminal fines.
In the context of a DUI case, the benefits of Veterans Treatment Court are particularly advantageous. A DUI conviction in Sarasota will generally involve fines and court fees. But, there are also hidden costs such as increased auto insurance premiums, the possible installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, and the expense of using public transportation while your license is suspended.
Together, the cost of fighting, and losing, your DUI case can be significantly more expensive than participating in Veterans Court.
How Do I Participate in Veterans Treatment Court?
Veterans Treatment Court is only for qualified veterans who are those currently serving or who have honorably served in a branch of the United States armed forces. With the help of your criminal defense attorney, you may request to participate in the program through Pre-Trial Intervention. Alternatively, you may enroll in Veterans Court after pleading guilty as a condition of your probation. Your eligibility for Veterans Court depends also on the nature of the criminal charges levied against you. If you have been charged with a violent felony or a drug-dealing charge, you are automatically excluded from Veterans Treatment Court.
If you meet these basic criteria for eligibility, the arraigning judge, the State Attorney Office, and the Veterans Court staff will review your criminal history. If they decide that your profile fits the program’s mission and capacity, you will be required to attend a substance abuse and mental health consultation. The outcome of this evaluation will determine your placement in Veterans Court.
Veterans Treatment Court has four phases that extend over a six month to two year period, during which you agree to:
- Undergo substance abuse treatment
- Submit to random drug testing
- Attend support group meetings
- Hold down a job
- Go back to school
If you have a less-than-honorable discharge status from the military, you will be barred from participating in Veterans Treatment Court. Depending on your military record, however, you may be able to appeal your discharge status, which would make you eligible for Veterans Court and other veteran benefits.
If this approach fails, your Sarasota criminal defense lawyer may be able to obtain your enrollment in other alternative programs to a prosecution, such as mental health or drug court.
Contact a Sarasota DUI Attorney Today
At Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A., we understand the need to balance advocacy with our clients’ interest in reducing the cost of passing through the criminal justice system. If you are facing criminal charges, Sarasota DUI attorney Erika Valcarcel can work with you to find an affordable and just resolution to your case. Contact us today at (941) 363-7900 to arrange a free and confidential case consultation.