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Veterans Treatment Court in Florida
Under § 394.47891, Florida Statutes, the Florida Legislature supported the creation of veterans’ treatment court programs in each judicial circuit in the state with the purpose of addressing the underlying causes of a veteran’s involvement with the judicial system. Veterans court programs emphasize treatment over punishment. Veterans treatment courts are designed to assist with complex treatment needs associated with substances abuse, mental health, and other issues unique to the traumatic experience of war. These courts provide eligible veterans with resources tailored to those having served in the armed forces.
More information about veterans treatment court in Florida, the court process, and more can be found below.
Veterans Treatment Court Lawyer in Tampa, FL
Attorney Chris Beardslee is a former US Navy Petty Officer. As a Veteran himself, he understands the challenges that Veterans face and has represented clients through the entirety of the Veterans Treatment Court process. Read more about Attorney Chris Beardslee’s military service and knowledge of the Veterans Treatment Court process below.
Chris is an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer serving the Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota counties.
He is dedicated to not only providing the best legal advice and defense for your specific case, but also to making sure that you are informed about the process and your legal options along the way.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your case or any current charges our office is happy to help.
Contact The Law Office of Chris Beardslee for a free consultation today. Call 813-496-7778 or fill out a contact form and we will get in touch with you to discuss the best strategies for your case.
What is Florida Veterans Treatment Court?
The Florida Legislature established the Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) in 2013. It was modeled after existing drug courts, pretrial diversion programs, and requirements for judges to consider veterans’ combat experience in post-trial sentencing decisions. Each County in Florida has its own version of Veterans Court and application and acceptance processes vary greatly between the judicial circuits.
If you are a veteran of the armed forces who is charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense, then you might be eligible to resolve your case in veterans’ court. Entering veterans’ court requires meeting different eligibility requirements.
It is important to understand that effective 2021, the Florida Legislature passed laws that make the State Attorney’s Office, not the Court, the decider on who may avail themselves of Veteran’s Treatment Court. Individuals must demonstrate that they are both eligible for the treatment Court program by proving an appropriate military history and a nexus between that service to country and the alleged criminal conduct (example: Combat PTSD that has been carried through life has led to substance use which lead to a possession arrest).
Veterans’ Treatment Intervention Program
The misdemeanor pretrial veterans’ treatment intervention program is referenced in section 948.16(2) of the Florida Statutes that provides:
- A veteran, as defined in s. 1.01, including a veteran who is discharged or released under a general discharge, or servicemember, as defined in s. 250.01, who suffers from a military service-related mental illness, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse disorder, or psychological problem, and who is charged with a misdemeanor is eligible for voluntary admission into a misdemeanor pretrial veterans’ treatment intervention program approved by the chief judge of the circuit, for a period based on the program’s requirements and the treatment plan for the offender, upon motion of either party or the court’s own motion. However, the court may deny the defendant admission into a misdemeanor pretrial veterans’ treatment intervention program if the defendant has previously entered a court-ordered veterans’ treatment program.
- While enrolled in a pretrial intervention program authorized by this section, the participant shall be subject to a coordinated strategy developed by a veterans’ treatment intervention team.
The coordinated strategy should be modeled after the therapeutic jurisprudence principles and key components in section 397.334(4), Florida Statutes, with treatment specific to the needs of veterans and servicemembers.
The coordinated strategy may include a protocol of sanctions that may be imposed upon the participant for noncompliance with program rules.
The protocol of sanctions may include, but need not be limited to, placement in a treatment program offered by a licensed service provider or in a jail-based treatment program or serving a period of incarceration within the time limits established for contempt of court.
The coordinated strategy must be provided in writing to the participant before the participant agrees to enter into a misdemeanor pretrial veterans’ treatment intervention program or other pretrial intervention program.
Expungement of Charges After Veterans’ Treatment Intervention
Any person whose charges are dismissed after successful completion of the misdemeanor pretrial veterans’ treatment intervention program, if otherwise eligible, may have his or her arrest record of the dismissed charges expunged under section 943.0585, Florida Statutes.
How Long Does It Take to Get Through Veterans Treatment Court in Florida?
This is decided on a case-by-case basis, but typically contracts are 12-24 months depending on the charges, type of treatment needed, and results of a Veteran Screening that is done prior to formal acceptance into the program.
Defendant’s accepted into the program are held accountable for completing the terms of their contract and may earn accelerated time or may be subject to additional sanctions for deviating from Court instructions.
Am I Eligible for Veterans Treatment Court in Florida?
To be eligible to request to resolve your case in veterans court, you must be a veteran, as defined in section 1.01, Florida Statutes, including a veteran who is discharged or released under a general discharge, or servicemember, as defined in section 250.01, Florida Statutes who suffers from a military service-related mental illness, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse disorder, or psychological problem, and who has been criminally charged with an admissible crime. Not all criminal cases are eligible for VTC; typically charges that higher than a 3rd degree felony have to be reduced at the State Attorney’s discretion to become eligible.
Once a Veteran is determined to be eligible for VTC, the State Attorney will determine if that veteran is then admitted into the program. In years past, the Court made this determination. This process empowered the State Attorney’s Office to now make this decision in 2021. If the State Attorney’s office denies participation, there is not an appeal process to possibly force admission.
What Are the Advantages of Veterans Treatment Court?
Resources are available to the person requiring treatment that may not be eligible for Defendant’s in other treatment court programs. Veteran’s Courts are tailored with best-practices for those having served and there is a military-flavored comradery amongst the staff, mentors, and other Defendants. While most Florida criminal courts have a “punishment-first” mentality, VTC is a “treatment-first” Court that often allows for accountability and understanding for minor transgressions, relapses, or difficulties in maintaining progress in the program. Courts are much more flexible with treatment and timelines than in most other line Courts. Depending on your judicial circuit, you may have other veteran mentors assigned who can act as a friendly arm to help guide you through the process.
Why Choose The Law Office of Chris Beardslee When It Comes to Veterans Court Representation?
VTC differs from other criminal court divisions in its language, tone, pace, and availability of resources. Attorney Chris Beardslee is a former US Navy Petty Officer having served for 5 years from 2003-2008. During that time, Attorney Beardslee was deployed overseas to Japan, Qatar, Afghanistan and Germany. Having an attorney who is himself a Veteran allows for insight and understanding to the unique challenges that Veterans deal with in terms of addiction issues, PTSD, mental health, and pressures that Veteran’s often put on themselves to “overcome” on their own.
The Tampa Bay area Courts are aware that Attorney Beardslee was honorable discharged from the military and it allows for a unique connection to the Court and other veteran mentors for having once been under the stressors and triggers himself.
Attorney Beardslee has represented numerous clients through the Veteran’s Treatment Court program in Pinellas and Hillsborough County through graduation. Please contact The Law Office of Chris Beardslee for a case review and consultation to discuss your matter.