In firm news, the Norton Pelt team is very excited to announce that we won the Best Law Firm Category in the 2023 Best of the Burg contest!   We'd like to extend a big thank you to our community for all of your support - this couldn't have been achieved without you. We look forward to continuing to provide excellent legal services to Fredericksburg and the Commonwealth.

Virginia Veterans Treatment Docket

States have incorporated “drug courts,” which offer sentencing alternatives to specific individuals. After defendants accept a plea, they enter into a supervised process to break their addiction and avoid being sent to prison. Though most jurisdictions offer these, few have begun offering something along the same lines to veterans known as “veterans dockets.” 

This program is in its early stages and has only been in use for less than two years. It is for eligible defendants who are veterans with substance abuse or mental health issues. A veteran is anyone currently or formerly on active duty in the military, national guard, or the reserves. They are given veteran status regardless of how often they did or did not deploy. Additionally, veterans will not be denied entry to a veteran docket due to combat experience. 

The Reason For the Program

It is important that neither the veteran entering into the program nor the general public view this program as a pass but rather as an opportunity. Their purpose is to provide veterans with the resources for treatment while drastically reducing their possibility of being tied into the system due to repeated offenses. A majority of the veterans who enter into the program are there due to drug-related charges. Whereas typical sentencing is a critical component of our legal justice system, it does not eliminate the root cause of the problem: addiction.

People join the military out of pride and commitment to an ideal larger than themselves. Though this could apply to any branch of the military, young men and women feel a sense of unparalleled accomplishment when they complete The Crucible at the Marine Corps Recruit Depots and don the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor for the first time. They are taught to face adversity, adapt, and overcome it. Upon leaving the service, they may experience severe anxiety, depression, or traumatic stress. The tools they were given to overcome challenges in the military will be largely ineffective when dealing with mental health challenges. 

The military may no longer associate reaching out for help as a weakness. Many veterans still feel an unnecessary sense of shame for needing to do so. They’d rather quietly self-medicate with drugs or alcohol than vocalize their need for support. These people develop long-term issues, face criminal charges, and eventually become people they no longer recognize. 

What the Program Achieves 

This is not for everyone, and veterans must apply to get in. The application process involves a veteran team led by a veteran judge. These people have similar military experiences and can determine whether the applicant is a good fit for the program. If they are, their Circuit Court case is continued indefinitely. 

The veteran docket process can take anywhere from six to 24 months. There are multiple components to it, such as counseling and drug screenings. Each participant will have to see a judge once a month. There are different levels to it, and upon completing each one, the participant receives a “challenge coin.” These are tokens that military members use to acknowledge units they have been a part of. Using these coins is a deliberate way of instilling the pride and belonging they had before making poor choices. Like the program, they are a testament to the long-term solution the veteran dockets aim to provide. 

Reach Out to Compassionate Legal Counsel 
Veterans, generally, feel understood by other veterans. Attorney Jason Pelt is a former Marine  who served as a Staff Judge Advocate stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico and Marine Barracks 8th & I in Washington, D.C. He and the other attorneys at Norton Pelt are highly experienced with criminal matters and can assist you when you need it the most. For professional and empathetic legal counsel, contact us to schedule your consultation.

The following two tabs change content below.

Norton Pelt, PLC

We work hard to ensure we provide the best legal experience possible and make it a priority to get to know each client so we can help you through virtually every type of legal event you may go through.

Latest posts by Norton Pelt, PLC (see all)