People in the military meet various challenges in their line of duty, including facing criminal charges. Sometimes illegal actions of the military men and women are attributed to psychological problems from working in difficult situations and environments. The military diversion program helps them instead of sending them to local jails and prisons.
These programs offer treatment and rehabilitation to affected military offenders, giving them a second chance to serve the country. The military diversion program is for California active-duty military men/women and veterans. If you face criminal charges and are in the military, you could benefit from this program if you suffer from mental health or have trauma issues. It allows you to receive treatment and care and could lead to a dismissal of your charges. Talk to us at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm for more information and guidance on how to join the program from Riverside, CA.
California Military Diversion Program
California military diversion treatment programs are under PC 1001.80. It is a unique pretrial diversion treatment program offering an alternative treatment to a jail term for misdemeanor offenses committed by veterans and active military members.
You do not need to admit to wrongdoing to receive diversion under this law. The judge simply postpones legal proceedings on your case as you participate in the program for education and treatment. However, you must waive your right to a speedy trial.
Once you complete the diversion program, the judge will dismiss criminal charges against you. If you fail to finish the treatment program, the judge could continue the legal process, and you could face jail time upon conviction.
Military diversion treatment programs are also available alongside mental health treatment programs. Those who participate in the latter program could have the judge dismiss their criminal charges and seal their criminal records.
Our military men and women work in very challenging situations. They experience traumatic events like assault, military combat, disasters, and sometimes sexual assault. These could have long-lasting negative impacts on them, resulting in anger, difficulties in sleeping, nightmares, always being jumpy, and sometimes overindulgence in drugs and alcohol abuse. Prolonged exposure to dangerous environments could result in PTSD. That is why programs like these are necessary for the mental health of the active-duty military personnel and veterans who engage in crime due to mental-health-related issues they are experiencing.
After committing a criminal offense, not all military personnel qualify for the diversion program. You could be eligible if, due to the military service, you suffer from:
- Military-related sexual trauma
- PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Substance abuse
- TBI or traumatic brain injuries
- Mental health issues
The problems you are experiencing must have arisen from your military service. Assessments are done on defendants before they are accepted into these programs to determine the cause of their problems. You can only qualify for education and treatment if there is absolute proof that something within the military service triggered your behavior and caused you to commit the crime.
Additionally, military diversion treatment programs are available only for first misdemeanor offenders. Military personnel with prior convictions for similar offenses will be tried in a Veteran’s court. The court’s supervision and structure are more advanced than you get in the military diversion.
PTSD for Military Personnel
PTSD is an issue affecting a person’s mental health. It is experienced by people that could have experienced trauma in their life. It is likely to affect military personnel that has experienced sexual assault or military combat. Note that people react to events like these differently. Thus, not everyone that undergoes a traumatic event develops PTSD. Fortunately, some people recover pretty fast after experiencing a difficult situation. But others register severe symptoms for a few days, weeks, and months. Some people experience acute stress.
When a person showcases stress-related symptoms after experiencing a challenging event, and the signs do not quickly go away, they could have PTSD. Proper diagnosis is required if the person:
- Does not get better over a month
- Their ability to work is impacted
- The person’s symptoms are not related to medical illness, drug or alcohol abuse, or anything else other than the problematic experience.
A person does not start exhibiting signs of PTSD immediately after the traumatic event. It could take up to three months or even years later. But, the person could have re-experiencing symptoms like bad dreams, flashbacks, and frightening thoughts. Some people unconsciously tend to avoid places, objects, or events that remind them of the trauma. In contrast, others showcase reactive symptoms like angry outbursts, easily startled, difficulties with spelling, and always being on edge or tense.
Military Sexual Trauma
Military personnel also experience sexual trauma. Sexual trauma is the psychological trauma resulting from physical, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sexual battery when the military person is on active or inactive duty or training.
Sexual harassment occurs when a person experiences repeated, unsolicited physical or verbal sexual threatening contact. Some of the actions that could lead to sexual-related trauma for military persons include:
- Forcible oral copulation
- Penetration using an object
- Coerced sex
- Sexual battery
- Unwelcome, threatening sexual advances
- Offensive, threatening sex-related remarks
Military personnel can experience sexual trauma while on active or off duty, on or off base.
TBI for Military Personnel
Traumatic brain injuries are cognitive impairments resulting from violent blows or jolts to the head. It could occur when a person falls violently or a hard or sharp object like a bullet penetrates their brain tissue. Military persons are also highly affected by explosive blasts. Pressure waves passing through a person’s brain could significantly disrupt its function.
A military person could also suffer from TBI from a penetrating wound, severe blow to their head, or a vehicle accident.
TBI showcases in many ways, including physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms. Physically, a person could experience constant headaches, loss of sensation or coordination, and dizziness. Some symptoms appear right after the traumatic experience, while others come days or weeks later.
Emotional and cognitive symptoms could result in conflict and incredible frustration with the affected person and their family members.
TBI could also cause mental health issues like substance abuse and depression. Some of the long-term problems linked to TBI include issues with memory, reasoning, learning, attention, concentration, judgment, decision-making, problem-solving, planning, organization, communication, stating or completing duties, and anger.
Offenses That Could Qualify You For Military Diversion
As previously mentioned, not all military offenders qualify for the military division. You must meet the qualification criteria, including being a first offender and facing misdemeanor criminal charges. Some of the common misdemeanor offenses that affect veterans and active military personnel include:
- Possession of controlled substances
- California DUI
- Misdemeanor battery and assault
When a military person is arrested for any of those offenses, he/she will seek legal help like everyone else to fight their charges in court. Experienced criminal lawyers know about military diversion treatment programs and how they can benefit defendants in the military. Thus, your attorney will suggest military diversion to you and then place a request to the court on your behalf. The judge could ask for an evaluation to make its decision.
If the judge agrees that you qualify for military division, the court will give you consent and place you on a pretrial military diversion program. The judge will postpone criminal proceedings on your case for two years as you undergo training and treatment.
The judge decides the treatment programs you should use while on the program, depending on the nature of the offense and your assessment results. You could be required to take part in community-based or federal treatment service programs.
The judge will give preference to those programs that have successfully been helpful to people suffering from trauma because of military service. The court could join hands with the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that you receive maximum benefits from the services provided.
Conditions for Participating in Military Diversion
You must abide by all the conditions given by the judge or the chosen diversion program. Some of the conditions you could receive include:
- You must attend all treatment sessions
- You should receive counseling for substance abuse, or domestic violence (whichever applies to your situation)
- You should comply with random drug or alcohol testing
- There should be satisfying progress reports from the agencies offering treatment and education programs
The judge will require the agency/agencies offering the diversion program to provide the prosecutor with progress reports at least every six months.
Note the following:
California military diversion treatment programs run for 12 to 24 months. California law only allows diversion of criminal processes against a defendant for two years.
The court or agency can terminate your military diversion treatment before completing it.
As mentioned above, the agency files progress reports with the judge and prosecutor every six months. Following those reports, the court can call for a hearing if it is evident that you are not performing satisfactorily in the program you have been assigned to or are not benefitting from the services and treatment under the given program. If the judge concluded that the treatment was not working for you, they could terminate the program and continue the criminal processes against you.
Completion of Military Diversion
You must complete the diversion program if you wish to have the court drop all your criminal charges. The court automatically dismisses your criminal charges at the end of the treatment and education program. Your record of arrest and diversion will not be used without your consent in a manner that could lead to denied benefits, employment, certificate, or license.
But you are obliged to provide a truthful response if a question is posed to you regarding your previous criminal record. In that case, you will be expected to provide information regarding your arrest and diversion for a particular offense.
For instance, when applying for a job as a police officer, you must disclose previous arrests and convictions. If there is a straightforward question regarding the same in an application or questionnaire for the position of a police officer, you are required to provide these details. The Department of Justice is also obliged by law to provide the exact information while responding to your application for a peace officer position.
If the underlying offense was DUI-related and the DMV revoked or suspended your driver’s license, completing the diversion program does not lead to automatic reinstatement of your driving privilege. The DMV has every right to confiscate your driver’s license temporarily or permanently if you have committed a serious violation that could have endangered the lives of other road users. The military diversion program does not limit the Department’s mandate.
PTSD as a Defense Strategy in California
California law provides a fair trial for all defendants, regardless of their charges. Several legal defense strategies are allowed for various crimes, both felonies, and misdemeanors.
PTSD is allowed, in appropriate cases, as a defense strategy. It falls within the ‘insanity defense’ bracket.
Criminal defense lawyers use PTSD as mitigation proof. Even though it is not a complete defense mechanism, mitigation helps defendants receive less-severe penalties upon conviction.
If you face criminal charges in California, you can take a not guilty plea citing insanity if you committed the offense while you were legally insane. Legal insanity is allowed under the following circumstances:
- If you didn’t know the nature and gravity of your actions
- If you couldn’t tell a right from wrong at the time of the offense
Your attorney will be required to demonstrate that you were indeed insane by demonstrating a preponderance of the evidence. Evidence provided should give at least a 51% likelihood that you were legally insane when you committed the crime. You will be placed in a treatment facility and not in prison after the sentencing.
PTSD can be used as mitigation proof when a military person is facing trial in a criminal court. The defendant only needs to demonstrate that his/her behavior was due to emotional trauma. However, that does not take away the fact that the defendant committed the offense. In that case, sentencing will happen, only that the judge could give the defendant a lighter sentence. In most cases, judges give treatment and probation in place of custody for defendants like those.
Post-Conviction Program for the Military
Post-conviction programs are very similar to military diversion treatment programs. The only difference is that they are allowed after sentencing and not before the start of the criminal process. These programs are under California Penal Code 1170.9.
When a judge convicts a military person of a criminal offense, or the person pleads guilty or no contest to the crime, the judge could sentence them to a treatment program instead of jail. But, there must be proof that the offender’s actions were due to sexual trauma, PTSD, substance abuse, TBI, or issues related to their mental health resulting from their time in the U.S military.
Initially, post-conviction programs were only limited to veterans, but a 2010 amendment made it possible for active-duty military persons to benefit.
If you face a criminal trial and qualify for post-conviction treatment, the court will have a hearing after sentencing to determine your suitability. If the court determines that you are suitable for alternative sentencing, you will receive a conviction for education and treatment in place of jail/prison.
Post-conviction programs run for the same period as the defendant will have been in incarceration. Thus, if you were sentenced to one year in jail, you will need to attend treatment sessions for one year. If the court grants you probation under the law and commits you to a treatment program, you will earn sentence credit for the exact time you will serve in the treatment program.
But, you must be eligible for probation to qualify for post-conviction treatment under California Penal Code 1170.9. That disqualifies certain cases to post-conviction treatment. For instance, it is not allowed for violent felonies or other serious felonies that defendants commit while on formal probation.
Additionally, judges are skeptical about giving probation in cases involving the infliction of great bodily injuries or the use of deadly weapons. It means that these cases could also not qualify for post-conviction treatment. If you are eligible for probation but the judge does not grant it, you will not also qualify for post-conviction treatment.
The Veterans Courts
They are special courts instituted by court systems within California. They are usually designed alongside other communal courts like homeless and drug courts. Their mandate is to resolve underlying legal issues revolving around mental health and substance abuse for veterans.
Veterans courts are also closely related to military diversion treatment programs. But, they provide higher levels of supervision and structure. Generally, they handle non-violent offenders.
Like other similar programs, the legal process in The Veterans Courts starts with a veteran committing an offense due to a mental health or substance abuse issue they are experiencing. The veteran will seek acceptance into a treatment program through their legal team.
In a veteran’s court, there will be a team composed of a judge, prosecutor, the veteran’s criminal attorney, and a veteran’s administrative caseworker. The team will work together to design and help the veteran through an all-inclusive treatment plan.
Once you complete the treatment program, the court will dismiss all criminal charges against you. You will also have support systems and coping mechanisms to help you reintegrate into society positively.
How To Benefit From These Specialized Military Treatment Programs
These treatment programs aim at ensuring that a veteran or active-duty military person is rehabilitated and placed back in the system. Thus, all is not lost for military personnel who commit crimes due to the challenges they face from their service in the military. But, as previously mentioned, not all military or veteran offenders qualify for these treatment programs.
To improve your chances of benefitting from a treatment program if you face criminal charges, hire an experienced criminal attorney. Competent criminal attorneys in the state understand how all these programs work, their requirements, and your chances of benefitting from them. Your attorney will know the various sentencing schemes available for veterans and active-duty military persons and what you need to do to sign you up for one of the programs.
Your attorney will start by studying the details of your case to determine how best you can benefit from the available programs. They will be with you as you go through the legal process, fighting for your rights and ensuring that you obtain the best possible outcome for your case.
Your attorney can also prepare a report for the court detailing how a diversion program or any other treatment program will benefit you more than incarceration. Your legal team will also be responsible for gathering evidence to demonstrate the cause of your distress or depression in court. Once the court understands that you were mentally affected by something you experienced while in military service, the judge will be willing to place you on a treatment program rather than in custody.
Thus, have an attorney from the start of the process. It will also help you avoid a damaging criminal record that could significantly impact your life.
Find a Reliable Criminal Attorney Near Me
Are you a veteran or active-duty military person facing misdemeanor charges in Riverside, CA?
Knowing about military diversion and how you can benefit from it could make a significant difference in your life. If you qualify for a diversion program, the judge will sentence you to treatment and rehabilitation instead of jail. That will help you recover from the trauma you could have experienced while in service and give you a chance to start afresh in life. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we believe in a fair outcome regardless of the underlying circumstances. Contact us at 951-946-6366 if you face criminal charges today and allow us to review the specific circumstances of your case. We could compel the judge to consider alternative sentencing if your situation calls for it.