Burlington County, NJ Law Blog

Sunday, March 19, 2017

New Jersey Considers Creating Veteran’s Diversion Program

How could a veteran’s diversion program benefit veterans accused of crimes in New Jersey?

Currently, New Jersey is one of just ten states without a program in place to divert veterans accused of crimes from the traditional court system into mental-health or substance abuse treatment.  That could soon change if a bill now awaiting final legislative approval gets the support it needs.  The proposed bill would allow veterans accused of some crimes to avoid facing trial and conviction, and instead receive mental health services to address the root of their charges.  

Thus far, the bill has attracted some dissenters; not for its plan to divert veterans, but for its limited scope.  The proposed bill would allow for diversion of only veterans accused of certain nonviolent crimes and limits help to just treatment programs run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  Many have called for expansion of the proposed program so that more veterans can see real benefits.

Veteran’s Diversion Programs Across the Country

Veterans risk their lives to preserve the safety of the American people.  Sadly, many veterans struggle when reintegrating to civilian life.  This can lead to criminal charges, often involving substance abuse problems.  Recognizing the increase in the number of veterans appearing in criminal court, one judge in New York took a revolutionary step in founding the first Veterans Treatment Court.  The court exclusively focused on justice involving veterans, assisting them in receiving treatment for mental health or drug issues.  

Due to the success of this initial veteran’s court, more courts were rapidly created.  There are now hundreds of Veterans Treatment Courts across the country with many more in the works.  Veterans courts will typically involve cooperation between drug and mental health courts.  In a veterans diversion court system, the prosecutor and defense attorney work together with veteran’s groups, treatment centers, and others to develop a comprehensive plan to assist veterans with mental health or drug issues.  Typically, admission to the diversion program requires a diagnosis of a substance abuse or mental health disorder.  

Any veteran who has been charged with a crime in New Jersey should contact our Burlington County New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Sitzler & Sitzler.  Our attorney team can assist you in avoiding conviction and obtaining the help you need.  


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