The veterans who fight for our country are often stuck dealing with considerable emotional struggles following active duty. Sometimes, this can lead to self-sabotage, including criminal charges.
Fortunately, the state of Pennsylvania recognizes the extent of what veterans have been through. For this reason, the court system is sensitive to veterans’ needs and may offer them the opportunity to have their cases brought to Pittsburgh veterans court.
What is Veterans Court in Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh veterans court is an opportunity for veterans to obtain the treatment they need to rebuild their lives and avoid the criminal consequences. Veterans court helps struggling veterans obtain the mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment they need to reintegrate into civilian society successfully.
How Can Veterans Benefit from This?
Veterans can benefit from these programs not only by avoiding the penalties of a criminal conviction but by finding the emotional support they desperately need.
What Does the Process Involve?
The veterans court process involves a community of other veterans who have dealt with their share of struggles since returning home from active duty. Once your attorney determines you are eligible to participate in veterans court, you must meet the specific requirements of your program to complete it.
What Happens to Your Charges?
Your charges will be temporarily put on hold until you complete the terms of your program. From there, your criminal charges could be reduced or completely dismissed depending on the details of your case.
After everything you have been through and done for the country, you should not be stuck dealing with the ramifications of the criminal justice system when veterans court could provide you with the opportunity you need to rebuild your life.
Who is Eligible for Pittsburgh Veterans Court?
To qualify for Pittsburgh veterans court, you must be a veteran facing criminal charges resulting from substance abuse or mental health issues.
However, simply being charged with a crime as a veteran does not mean you will qualify for veterans court. Only specific, non-violent offenses will be eligible, such as:
These are only a few of the more common offenses that may qualify for veterans court in Pittsburgh.
A Dishonorable Discharge Won’t Impact Eligibility
Many veterans facing criminal charges are hesitant to determine whether they qualify for veterans court. This is because they’re concerned a dishonorable discharge will prevent them from being eligible. Fortunately, your discharge status has no bearing on your ability to have your case heard in veterans court.
What to Expect From Veterans Court in Pittsburgh
The purpose of Pittsburgh veterans court is to assist veterans who are struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues after they have been charged with a crime. There are five steps, or phases, to the Pittsburgh veterans court program. They are as follows.
As you begin phase one of the Pittsburgh veterans court program, you can expect to meet with your assigned probation officer and begin attending weekly Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
As part of the terms of your probation, you might be required to submit to random drug or alcohol testing, electronic home monitoring, and start paying court fines, fees, and restitution.
As part of phase two, you might be required to continue meeting with your probation officer weekly, attending your substance abuse meetings, and meeting the terms of your probation.
During this phase, you might also be awarded special privileges that do not relate to your treatment, such as trips to the movies or the opportunity to go shopping for the afternoon, for example.
When you enter phase three of your veterans court program in Pittsburgh, you might no longer be required to submit to weekly drug or alcohol screenings or meetings with your probation officer.
Instead, these meetings become less frequent. During this phase, you might expect to receive lesser restrictions as long as you have previously met the terms of your program requirements.
Many veterans who enter phase four are beginning to look forward to life after treatment. In phase four, you can expect to have an 11 p.m. curfew but will have the opportunity to request special permission to be out past curfew.
The last phase of Pittsburgh veterans court treatment is where veterans will begin to acclimate to life outside of treatment. You might only be required to meet with your probation officer once a month and attend weekly substance-abuse meetings.
Completing Treatment at Pittsburgh Veterans Court
Phase five could be the end of your Pittsburgh veterans court treatment. However, treatment will not be complete until you:
- Have successfully paid all court fees and fines
- Passed your drug and alcohol test
- Remained sober or drug-free for a minimum of 12 months
Once you meet these requirements, you have completed your treatment and could have your criminal charges reduced or dismissed entirely, depending on the details of your case.
Contact a Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are interested in learning more about whether your case could be sent through Pittsburgh veterans court, reach out to our dedicated team at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC for help.