Veterans Courts

IMPORTANT RESOURCES FOR JUDGES AND VETERANS

For Veterans: New Judicial Council form for informing the court of your military status. View all 10 resource links below.

For Judges: Overview of Penal Code section 1170.9 for Justice Involved Veterans. Go to Resources link below and scroll to end.

What are Veterans’ Courts?

Veterans’ courts are hybrid drug and mental health courts that use the drug court model to serve veterans struggling with addiction, serious mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders. They promote sobriety, recovery and stability through a coordinated response that involves cooperation and collaboration with the traditional partners found in drug and mental health courts in addition of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care networks, the Veterans' Benefits Administration, and, in some programs, volunteer veteran mentors and veterans' family support organizations.

Veterans’ Treatment Courts are responses to the growing trend of veterans appearing before the courts to face charges stemming from substance abuse or mental illness. Drug and mental health courts frequently serve veteran populations. Research has shown that traditional services do not always adequately meet the needs of veterans. Many veterans are entitled to treatment through the Veterans’ Administration and veterans treatment courts help connect them with these benefits.

According to government reports, there are 23,440,000 veterans in the United States and approximately 1.7 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that as many as one third of the adult homeless population has served in the military and that at any given time there are as many as 130,000 homeless veterans. This population mirrors the general homeless population in that 45% suffer mental illness and 75% suffer from substance abuse problems. Veterans are not more likely to be arrested than the general population. But there are significant numbers of veterans involved with the criminal justice system, many of whom struggle with mental health and/or substance abuse illnesses. A 2000 Bureau of Justice Statistics Report found that 81% of all justice involved veterans had a substance abuse problem prior to incarceration, 35% were identified as suffering from alcohol dependency, 23% were homeless at some point in the prior year, and 25% were identified as mentally ill.

In December 2011, California courts reported that nine veterans’ courts programs had been established throughout the state. Currently 12 programs are reported in operation:
Alameda County Superior Court,
Los Angeles County Superior Court,
Orange County Superior Court (national mentor court),
Riverside County Superior Court,
Sacramento County Superior Court,
San Bernardino County Superior Court,
San Diego County Superior Court,
San Mateo County Superior Court,
Santa Barbara County Superior Court
Santa Clara County Superior Court (national mentor court), 
Tulare County Superior Court and
Ventura County Superior Court.

Questions regarding these local programs can be directed to the courts. To contact the courts, click here.

For more information about veterans’ courts, email: CollaborativeJustice@jud.ca.gov


Resources

For Vets:

Notification of Military Status Form

If you are a member of the military or a veteran and are involved in a court case, you may have certain rights and protections. To let the court know you are or were in the armed services or reserves, you can use the form Notification of Military Status (Form MIL-100). This form can also be used by someone on behalf of a member of the military or a veteran.

Veterans Courts Fact Sheet

California Department of Veterans Affairs: http://www.calvet.ca.gov/

Public Counsel Law Center, Center for Veterans Advancement:
http://www.publiccounsel.org/practice_areas/center_for_veterans_advancement

Justice for Vets: The National Clearinghouse for Veterans Treatment Courts:
http://www.nadcp.org/learn/veterans-treatment-court-clearinghouse

SAMHSA National GAINS Center Veterans and the Justice System
http://gainscenter.samhsa.gov/topical_resources/veterans.asp

SAMHSA National GAINS Center Veterans Initiative:
http://gainscenter.samhsa.gov/grant_programs/jdtr.asp

Invisible Wounds of War Study: A Joint Project of Rand Health and the Rand National Security Research Division:
http://www.rand.org/multi/military/veterans/

Mentoring and Veterans Hospital Program Policy and Procedure Manual, Buffalo Veteran’s Court:
http://ejfi.org/PDF/Russell_vet_court_manual.pdf

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV)
http://www.nchv.org

For Judges:

Overview of Penal Code section 1170.9 for Justice Involved Veterans

Penal Code section 1170.9 provides judges with the option of sentencing military veterans to treatment instead of prison or jail if they have been convicted of certain classes of crimes, as long as the court finds that the defendant may be suffering from sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems as a result of their past or present service in the United States military. The Justice-Involved Veterans: A decision map of Penal Code section 1170.9 guide gives an overview of §1170.9, outlines the steps to determining its applicability, and articulates some of the issues to consider in cases where the defendant is a justice-involved veteran.

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