San Diego Veteran’s Court Attorneys with experience in obtaining the Veteran’s Court program for multiple clients
Veteran’s court is a program where an individual charged with a crime can essentially get their case dismissed and sealed if they complete the program.
Contrary to the way it sounds, Veteran’s court is not actually a separate court at all. Instead, it’s more like a condition of probation that happens after the plea. Veteran’s court is a newer program in San Diego and a lot of people do not understand how this program works so below we will explain how the actual process works and then give one a better understanding about veteran’s court as a whole.
In San Diego, when one has been charged with a crime (a misdemeanor or a felony) they go to court and are able to defend themselves. One option that active duty military or veterans of the military have is to plead guilty and then go to veteran’s court. The way it works is as follows:
First a guilty plea must be taken. Now for a lot of people this can only be the hardest part of the process. Sometimes defendants want the help but then also have a claim of innocence or say that they did not commit the crime. If this is the case, then they would not be eligible for veteran’s court. A plea needs to be taken, the sentencing judge needs to note that they will consider a referral to veteran’s court and then it can be argued at sentencing.
At the sentencing hearing a skilled criminal defense lawyer will be able to argue the facts and the law appropriately to better your chances of admission. What the sentencing judge is looking for is 1) does the person have PTSD or any other related combat mental illnesses 2) were the illnesses connected with or the cause of the crime. Generally at Ozols Law Firm, we hire a psychologist to get a psychiatric evaluation done on our clients, as well as looking at their past history of medical records. We then look at the facts of the crime and analyze how an argument can be made that this crime was related to mental illness caused by their service.
If the sentencing judge authorizes a referral to veteran’s court then the person goes to a separate team in charge of the court and is evaluated by them. The team includes a public defender, a district attorney, someone from Veteran’s Affairs, a mental health doctor, a judge and some more individuals. They screen the person who is looking to get accepted and then have a round table meeting about their eligibility. If the team believes they would be a good fit, then there is a hearing on whether or not the person will be accepted. If the person is accepted then the program can begin.
What does someone have to do in Veteran’s Court in San Diego?
We often get asked what happens in veteran’s court and whether or not it is difficult. What happens is it is basically a form of probation where there is treatment involved for the individual and they need to continue to come to court and check in with the team. In the first phase court can be as frequent as once a week where the judge checks on the progress of the individual. The defendant is usually represented by council as well as a mentor who helps to explain to the judge how their progress is going. As one “phases” up in the program they need to go less and less to court and are given more trust as they complete their transformation. The defendant usually has to go to group therapy and well as other programs that are provided by the VA, in order to help them with their mental health issues.
How long is Veteran’s Court in San Diego?
Veteran’s court can be as little as 18 months but can be a lot longer if the defendant has problems with compliance. If one violates while in veteran’s court then that person can essentially have to restart the program from the very beginning. It is a very taxing program, it is long and it takes a lot of commitment, but if you are able to complete the program, you can have your case dismissed. The criminal law process is sometimes a long one but in the end it can be very rewarding.
Can a San Diego Veteran’s Court Lawyer help get my case dismissed?
If you complete the veteran’s court program you will be able to file what is called an “H” motion, which will be a motion to dismiss your case. Pursuant to California penal code 1170(H), if this motion is granted (which it is if you complete the program) then your case will also actually be sealed as well so no one can ever see it and no record of it exists. This is literally the only time in the law and the only penal code that offers such an advantageous dismissal. If you complete the program, your record will literally be wiped clean.