Both King County and the city of Seattle have alternative courts available for eligible veterans. These are rehabilitative courts rather than retributive courts. They offer an opportunity for veterans with diagnosed mental illnesses to avoid jail time, access treatment, and work toward rehabilitation.
The Regional Veterans Court in King County exists as part of King County's commitment to honoring and serving veterans and military personnel. The King County Regional Veterans Court acknowledges that veterans in the criminal justice system may have unique circumstances such as PTSD or other disabilities related to their service. They describe their mission as follows:
- To address the underlying issues that led to the veteran entering the criminal justice system
- To provide a supportive and respectful courtroom environment for the veteran and victim
- To work toward increasing public safety through a collaborative, team-based approach including the veteran and involving individualized treatment plans and creative approaches
If a veteran is charged with a misdemeanor in King County, anyone (including defense counsel) can refer the case to Regional Veterans Court. However, if the charge is a felony, the prosecutor is responsible for making the referral. Some of the eligibility requirements include: diagnostic criteria of the accused veteran (PTSD or another severe and persistent mental illness), service availability and eligibility, defendant willingness and ability to engage in the program, and charges occurring within King County.
Each treatment plan is unique through the King County Regional Veterans Court but they generally include requirements of compliance and supervision, active engagement in mental health and/or substance abuse treatment, medication adherence, clean and sober housing, and often urinalysis. The defendant must not have any new violations of law, must report to a Probation Mental Health Court Specialist, and must return to court for regular reviews as directed by the Judge.
Seattle Municipal Court (SMC) has a similar program, Veterans Treatment Court (VTC). This is a program that serves to address the mental health and/or substance abuse issues of the veteran who is accused of a crime in Seattle Municipal Court. It is a voluntary, court-monitored treatment program. Participators receive assistance and support in establishing VA benefits and accessing mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, primary health care, and housing.
To be eligible for SMC VTC, the defendant must be a veteran with an honorable discharge or discharged generally under honorable conditions, with at least two year of active duty service. The defendant must have an Axis I mental disorder or substance use disorder and there should be some connection between this diagnosis and the criminal charges. The defendant must also be agreeable and motivated for change.
If you are a veteran and charged with a crime, you may have questions about eligibility for these alternative programs. Please contact our attorneys who are experienced in working with these alternative courts and can advise you appropriately. We have had a lot of success in helping veterans avoid jail time through participation in these programs. Contact us today for a Free Consultation.
Dellino Law Group honors, admires, and salutes each and every veteran for their sacrifice and service to our country. Happy Veterans Day!