The Benefits of Allegheny Veterans Treatment Court
The United States of America wouldn’t be what it is without its military. This subset of our population represents some of our country’s best and bravest, and we are forever indebted to their service. Interestingly, the state of Pennsylvania is home to nearly 800,000 veterans, making it the state with the fourth-highest veteran population.
More often than not, though, our veterans come home from active duty with problems, like PTSD or depression brought on by various issues unique to their situation. This often leads to substance abuse and eventually criminal charges, making veterans some of our most vulnerable members of the population.
Fortunately, Pennsylvania has a special veterans court system that caters to the specific, and often sensitive, nature of veterans’ criminal cases.
If you’re a Pennsylvania veteran who’s been hit with a criminal charge, your case may be eligible for the Allegheny Veterans Treatment Court. However, only an experienced and empathetic criminal defense attorney will be able to help guide you through this particular court system. Our team at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC is proud of our work with veterans in difficult times, and we have the legal know-how to help get you the best possible outcome. Call us today at (412) 281-2146 to schedule your free and confidential consultation.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible for Veterans Court?
The biggest benefits of Veterans Treatment Court is that they offer suffering veterans treatment, accountability, and structure in place of incarceration. Not only does this help ground veterans and reintegrate them into a civilian society, but it directly addresses the unique mental health and substance abuse issues veterans typically face.
What’s more, veterans will go through this process together, and this community of peers will help hold them accountable to their treatment program and its requirements. They’ll also receive customized treatment and meet regularly with a veteran mentor, who can help them make sense of all the emotions that arise throughout the program.
With an average success rate of 98%, these Veterans Treatment Courts have helped thousands of veterans get their lives back on track and stay out of the criminal justice system.
Generally speaking, you must be a veteran with mental health or substance abuse issues who is facing a criminal charge to be eligible for these programs. It doesn’t matter whether you were honorably or dishonorably discharged, either; you’ll still be eligible. However, your criminal charges must be nonviolent to qualify. Specifically, your charges will be put on hold until you finish treatment, where they can then be reduced or outright dismissed at the district level.
Here’s a list of some common nonviolent offenses that will still leave a veteran eligible for the Veterans Treatment Court Program:
- Drug possession
- Drug use
Once you’re deemed eligible to participate, you’ll have to satisfy the requirements for each step in order to successfully complete the program.
A Breakdown of the Treatment Program
Veterans Treatment Courts are similar to DUI diversion programs in that they ultimately seek to address defendants’ underlying substance abuse issues. Here are the five phases to the program.
- Phase One – In the initial phase of the program, you’ll be assigned a probation officer who you’ll meet with weekly, and you’ll have to attend at least three Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. On top of this, you may be subject to random drug or alcohol tests in addition to receiving an electronic home monitoring system to ensure that you’re staying away from places you shouldn’t be going. You’ll also have to show up for monthly progress reports and start paying back your fines and court fees.
- Phase Two – If you make it to Phase Two without any hiccups, then you may receive special privileges to go to social outings that are not employment, school, or treatment-related. You will still have to continue meeting with your probation officer, attending substance abuse program meetings, and participating in random drug and alcohol screenings, though. Failure to comply with these rules may incur additional penalties, so do your best to stay out of trouble.
- Phase Three – This is when your electronic home monitoring becomes a little less restrictive, provided you’re still meeting all the program requirements. At this point, your drug screening and meetings with your probation officers will become bi-weekly instead of weekly.
- Phase Four – The biweekly drug screenings and meetings with your probation officer still apply during this phase. You’ll also have to adhere to a curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., unless your probation officer grants you special permission to be out of your house during these hours.
- Phase Five – Naturally, this is the phase where you’ll enjoy the most freedom. Here, your curfew will be removed and you’ll only have to attend one substance abuse program meeting per week, as opposed to the two meetings in the earlier phases. You’ll still be subject to random drug and alcohol screenings and will have to continue paying your fines and court fees, but you’ll only have to meet with your probation officer once a month.
To successfully graduate, you’ll have to successfully complete all the phases and recommended treatment, as well as maintain employment, live a lifestyle that promotes sobriety, and stay sober or drug-free for at least 12 months. If you can accomplish all of that, then congratulations–you’ve made it through.
How Worgul, Sarna & Ness Can Assist You
Here at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we understand how disorienting it can be for veterans as they try to reintegrate into civilian society. However, many of the unique psychological issues they face often land them in a vicious cycle of substance abuse and incarceration.
Our team of seasoned, knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys can help guide you through your case while also getting you the help you need in the Allegheny Veterans Treatment Court program. Call us today at (412) 281-2146 to learn more about how we can best serve you.