What is Veterans Treatment Court?
Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) is a court program which works with defendants who are veterans and eligible for services through the VA (meaning with a general or honorable discharge) in an attempt to improve their lives through counseling, with the goal of sobriety and mental stability. People can enter Veterans Treatment Court in two ways:
1. As a diversion. This means that once the defendant graduates from VTC, the criminal charges are dismissed. This option is only available to defendants with certain charges, and who have never been in VTC or rejected the option of VTC in the past. The diversion program will last at least a year for felony charges, and at least 6 months if the defendant is charged only with misdemeanors.
2. As a condition of probation. In order to enter VTC, the judge must sentence the defendant to probation with the condition that he enter and complete VTC. If VTC is not completed, then the defendant will face a violation of probation.
Clients of VTC are required to do many things:
1. Random drug screens. The veterans will be drug tested randomly. They must either call a hotline every day to determine if they must drug test or someone will inform them of the need to test. When instructed, they must go to the drug lab or the VA in their county and give an observed urine sample.
2. Court attendance. Court attendance is required more frequently in the beginning of the program (typically once a week). Once progress is made through the program, the Court attendance requirement will lessen to every other week or every month.
3. Therapy. Each client of VTC is expected to participate in some type of therapy and/or substance abuse treatment. This treatment may consist of individual sessions, group therapy, partial hospitalization program/intensive outpatient, inpatient treatment, modification of living environment (transitional homes), etc. The amount and type of treatment will be determined in a treatment plan. Treatment may be modified throughout the program according to the needs of the veteran.
4. Self-help meetings. The treatment provider and Court may order that a client participate in self-help meetings, such as AA or NA. The number and frequency is determined on a case by case basis according to the veteran’s needs.
VTC operates as a team. The team includes a VTC Judge, a representative from both the Public Defender’s and State Attorney’s Offices, a probation officer, a coordinator from court administration, community treatment providers, and a representative from the VA Medical Center. Each week, the team meets prior to Court and discusses each veteran. During court, the veteran is called in front of the Judge, and the Judge discusses the veteran’s accomplishments and stumbling blocks over the past several weeks. The Judge may give the veteran an incentive for doing well or a sanction if he is not doing well. The sanction can include jail or elimination from the program, depending on the severity of the infraction.
Veterans Treatment Court is currently only available in Indian River and St. Lucie Counties. If you think you may qualify and are interested in participating in VTC, please speak to your attorney.