Tarrant County Veterans Court Programs | Fort Worth Criminal Defense Lawyers
Texas has more military veterans than any other state. In the wake of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many have difficulty transitioning from military service to civilian life. Some veterans suffer from PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injuries and others fall into addiction. Plagued by these ailments, some Texas veterans find themselves in the criminal justice system.
Recognizing a need, Texas has led the nation in addressing veteran criminal issues through special courts. Beginning in 2009, these court were designed to provide treatment and accountability for veterans in an effort to keep them out of the criminal justice system. There are currently 20 veterans courts in the state.
Under current law, which created the veterans courts programs, only veterans who suffer from an injury received while serving in a combat zone or other similar hazardous duty area are eligible to participate in a veterans court. Some veterans that have suffered similar injuries the occurred outside of a combat zone are not eligible despite the fact that the struggle for rehabilitation remains the same.
This has been a point of frustration for Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys who regularly handle cases involving Texas veterans. We were often met with opposition when trying to admit a veteran to the specialty court program.
New Legislation Expands Veterans Court Eligibility
S.B. 1474, which takes effect on 9/1/15, broadens the eligibility for veteran participation in these special courts. The bill would provide the courts with more flexibility over who was admitted into the program by removing the requirement that any illness or injury have occurred “in a combat zone or other similar hazardous duty area.” There is also another provision that gives courts discretion to admit a veteran if he/she does not fit any of the other categories. Finally, the amendments allow a veteran who is being supervised by a veterans’ court program to transfer counties to another program if desired. These are all good changes that will help veterans and make these specialty courts worthwhile.
See the 2015 Veteran’s Court Update.