Tarrant County Veterans Court – The Backdrop
Our veterans pay the cost for our freedom. This is a sacrifice that extends far beyond active duty in the military. Our men and women in uniform, both home and abroad, are exposed to difficulties which can manifest as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This disorder may result in flashbacks, avoidance, aggression, and sometimes substance abuse issues as veterans seek to escape the pain or memories stemming from combat time. According to studies published by Veterans’ Affairs, 10-15% of veterans from Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD.
PTSD is just one example of how being in a combat zone can affect members of the military. There are many others including brain injuries, mental illnesses, and stress disorders. While not every case of PTSD gets reported, the following statistics how much prevalent PTSD is among servicemen and women who return home:
- Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.
- Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.
- Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
Unfortunately, PTSD and other issues, often land veterans in trouble with the law. Fortunately, there is a program in Tarrant County for veterans facing criminal charges that focuses on rehabilitation, rather than incarceration. Over the years, Tarrant County Veteran’s Court Diversion Program has been covered extensively, including by the Mental Health Channel which produced this very informative video below.
Tarrant County Veterans Court
Tarrant County is fortunate to have Judge Brent Carr, a veteran himself, who presides over the Tarrant County Veteran’s Court Diversion Program. With Judge Carr’s oversight, this program is exceptionally successful with less than five veterans reoffending and has become a model for other veteran court diversion programs throughout the state.
The Veteran’s Court Program exists for veterans who have returned to Tarrant County from active duty and been diagnosed with a mental illness, such as PTSD, which resulted in subsequent criminal conduct. If accepted into the program, veterans are monitored through a probationary period by persons experienced in handling veteran affairs. If completed successfully, a veteran’s case is ultimately dismissed. As Judge Carr told KERA, this Program is not intended to be a free pass. It does, however, give qualifying veterans an opportunity to get back on the right track.
While there are limitations on the types of offenses that qualify for entry into the Veteran’s Court Program, this program focuses on treatment of the underlying reasons for the criminal behavior. This may include counseling, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, monitoring, and drug screens. The Veteran’s Court Diversion Program also provides rehabilitation through Veteran’s Assistance.
The Tarrant County Veteran’s Treatment Court Program is a post-plea diversion program we have covered a number of times. The founder and supervising judge over the program is Judge Brent Carr, who we have also profiled. Thank you to all of our veterans for your service. Thank you to Judge Carr for your vision and leadership. Thank you also to Courtney Young who oversees the day-to-day operations of the program.
Tarrant County Veterans Court Overview
The Veterans Court Diversion Program provides judicially supervised treatment options for Justice–Involved Veterans (JIV) currently facing prosecution for one or more criminal offenses. The program focuses on removing JIV from the traditional criminal justice process and placing them in more rehabilitative options. To enter the program, the JIV must been screened, assessed, and approved. Once that process is complete, the JIV will begin the treatment program tailored to his/her needs.
It’s important to point out that a mental illness or mental disorder is no longer a pre-requisite for Veteran’s Court. Government Code 124.002 was expanded to allow consideration of circumstances of the defendant’s conduct, personal and social background, and criminal history.
Tarrant County Veterans Court Mission
The mission is to successfully habilitate the JIV by diverting them from the traditional criminal justice system and providing them with the tools they need to lead a productive and law-abiding lifestyle while improving mental health recovery and successful re-entry into the community. The program’s goals are to find JIV, assess their needs, offer assistance, manage their care, and provide them with successful treatment options ultimately leading to community reintegration, and resolution of their criminal case(s).
Conditions of the Veterans Court Diversion Program:
- The applicant must admit to the commission of the offense, and agree that this admission may be used against the veteran in court, as provided by law.
- The veteran must not commit a criminal offense for the duration of the program.
- The veteran must not consume alcohol or non-prescribed controlled substances.
- The veteran must submit to random chemical testing.
- The veteran must cooperate with treatment and/or counseling as recommended.
- The veteran must take all psychiatric medications as prescribed.
- The veteran must keep all appointments and attend all compliance hearings as scheduled.
- The veteran must agree to report to VCDP case manager as directed.
- The veteran must keep the program staff informed of any changes in address, telephone number, and employer.
- The veteran must consent to the release of protected information as permitted under Texas law.
- The veteran must have no contact with any person of disreputable or harmful character.
- The veteran must plead guilty to enter program. Upon completion of the program the charges are dismissed and eligible for expunction.
- The veteran must acknowledge that failure to comply with any term of this agreement will cause the State to withdraw from this agreement and proceed with prosecution of this offense.
- The veteran must acknowledge that the successful completion of the diversion agreement shall cause the State of Texas to dismiss the charges in this matter.
- The veteran must attend bi-monthly compliance hearings held in open court as directed.
- The veteran must agree to follow any/all directives given by the case manager in accordance with their individual treatment plan.
Eligibility for Tarrant County Veterans Court
- Veteran or current member of the United States Armed Forces, including a member of the Reserves, National Guard, or State Guard.
- Served in combat or hazardous duty.
- Honorable or Less-Than-Honorable Discharge.
- Clinical diagnosis of a brain injury, mental illness, or mental disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder, that resulted from the JIV military services in a combat zone or other similar hazardous duty area; and materially affected the JIV criminal conduct at issue in the case.
- Diagnosis must precede pending criminal offense.
- Diagnosis must be related to pending criminal offense.
- Diagnosis must be confirmed by program Dr. (approx. $80 fee)
- Recent changes in the law now allow for individuals without a diagnosis or combat duty to be considered in some cases. However, since there are only about 40 spots in the program, it is exceptionally difficult to enter the program under those circumstances.
- Current case must be pending in Tarrant County.
- Misdemeanors and Felony cases accepted.
- JIV with criminal history accepted if criminal history relates to service in the United States Armed Forces.
- District Attorney (DA) Approval: All cases are reviewed by the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office for final approval.
Ineligible for Tarrant County Veterans Court
- Currently on probation
- Facing felony 3(g) charges
- Dishonorable Discharge from the United States Armed Forces
Applying to Tarrant County Veterans Court
As former Tarrant County prosecutors who were involved in diversion programs and served in Judge Carr’s court, we are uniquely positioned to maximize your chances of entry into the program. We have assisted a number of veterans enter the Veterans Court Program in Tarrant County. For more information on how our attorneys can help you, call us at (817) 203-2220 or contact us online:
Also published on Medium.