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Diversion programs help soldiers avoid having a criminal record

In an era in which so many soldiers have not just experienced one, but several tours of duty in some of the world's disturbing war zones, Veteran's Affairs (VA) offices find themselves overwhelmed with how to prioritize the treatment of them. This has meant that many, with what are deemed to be less pressing mental health ailments, have had their treatment delayed.

It's while these soldiers have been awaiting mental health counseling that many of them have engaged in crimes that have the potential to further impact their ability to lead productive lives. Orange County prosecutors noted this increasing tendency early on and led them to create their Military Diversion Program.

Under this program, both veteran and active duty soldiers charged with both misdemeanors and felonies qualify to participate. In most cases, the individual is required to participate in an intensive therapy program or to complete probation for as much as a year as punishment in their case. If the soldier is successful in doing so, then his or her crime will be erased from his or her permanent record.

As for programs of this type, Orange County, California, is one of only 260 United States counties that offer what's come to be known as a Veterans Treatment Court. Each Tuesday, as many as 50 defendants charged with all types of crimes including assault, drunk driving, drug crimes and domestic violence, step forward to ask to be allowed to resolve their cases through this program.

While prosecutors concede that both active duty and retired military should be held responsible for the crimes they commit, they also realize that these individuals have been exposed to unimaginable circumstances. It's this exposure that has resulted in many of them returning to face civilian life, all the while suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

As they wait for treatment through the VA, soldiers may use drugs or alcohol to deal with the symptoms they face. It's through their use of these substances they may ultimately end up facing criminal charges.

As for the judges that preside over these unique diversion programs, they see this type of program as the 'next generation' in terms of the way sentencing is handled in criminal cases. If you want to learn more about whether you may qualify to have your case heard in one of these courts, an Orange County, California, criminal defense attorney may be able to help.

Source: The Orange County Register, "For military veterans facing misdemeanors, a 2nd chance in the court system," Kelly Puente, accessed July 06, 2017

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