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Veterans Court Offers Alternative to Criminal Court for Service Members with Substance Problem

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Service in the U.S. Armed Forces, especially in an active conflict zone, can take a serious emotional and psychological toll on members of the military. Often, those coming back from a tour of duty turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to quiet their internal turmoil, but these self-medicating strategies can result in addiction and dangerous behavior, and little recovery from these traumas. In order to address the problem of drug and alcohol addiction among veterans, Kentucky offers the Veterans Treatment Court program within the Drug Court system, tailored specifically to the needs of former service members.

What is Veterans Treatment Court?

Having itself operated since 1996 and experienced substantial success in reducing recidivism, the Kentucky Drug Court developed a Veterans Treatment Court to serve veterans who were facing relatively minor criminal charges. Rather than follow a traditional path of conviction, jail time, and release, the Veterans Treatment Court offers former servicemembers an opportunity to receive substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, and supervision.

The program takes between 18 months and 2 years to complete, and consists of four phases, including six months of aftercare once the treatment component of the program is completed. Participants meet in weekly group counseling sessions as well as individual counseling sessions, and are subject to drug and alcohol screenings. Participants will be assigned a veteran mentor who can help them access the medical and psychological services offered through the VA, and will offer support as they integrate themselves into civilian life once again. The participants will also be required to attend recovery meetings as a component of their treatment.

A liaison from the local police department is assigned to each participant to monitor their progress through home visits and curfew checks, and will provide updates to the judge overseeing the participant’s case. The program will be adjusted based on the participant’s progress, and if the participant routinely fails to comply with the terms of the program, they will be referred to the court for a hearing on whether they will be allowed to continue or referred to a conventional court.

The program is designed to facilitate sobriety, employment or enrollment in school, and stability for those who participate. The court will look for these features when determining whether or not a participant is prepared to graduate from the program.

Who is eligible to participate?

The program is designed for veterans, active duty military, National Guard or reserves members who have been charged with misdemeanors or felonies. Participants must meet certain criteria to be eligible, such as not having any previous convictions or pending charges for violent offenses, no prior convictions or charges for sexual offenses or drug trafficking, no open warrants, and a willingness and ability to participate. In order to participate, the veteran must have been diagnosed with either a substance problem or with a psychiatric disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, or a traumatic brain injury. Veterans can be referred to participate in the Veterans Treatment Court by the judge, prosecutor, or defense attorney involved in the individual’s case, as well as a probation officer, pretrial officer, or a staff member of the Veterans Justice Outreach program. Speak with a criminal defense attorney if you are a veteran facing charges and believe you might be eligible for this program.

If you are facing charges for driving under the influence or other alcohol or drug-related offenses in Kentucky, contact the seasoned and determined Louisville criminal defense attorney Ron Aslam for a consultation on your case, at 502-581-1676.