FLORIDA EXPERIMENTS WITH A NEW VETERANS INTERVENTION PROGRAM FOR COMBAT VETERANS

The Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office in Florida is establishing a diversion program for military veterans. The goal is for veterans suffering from post dramatic stress syndrome or those having difficulty reclaiming their civilian roles after military service will be helped rather than punished which should cheer the heart of every Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney.

Veterans in Pinellas Florida will have access to a Veterans Pretrial Intervention program for fairer sentences in nonviolent criminal cases.
World War One Veteran


The program will give veterans who have been accused of minor nonviolent drug crimes, misdemeanors or third degree felonies the opportunity to have the charges dismissed thru Pretrial Intervention or to have a reduction in sentence to a period of probation rather than jail. 

Further, the program will help match mentors for each veteran for support and help. The Veterans Pretrial Intervention Program is set will begin September 1, 2013.

Overall this is an excellent idea which could help many veterans who live or vacation in Florida only to find themselves accused of crime. However, one significant problem is that the program is run by the Pinellas State Attorney’s Office, so all of the discretion as to which Defendants qualify for the program will be made solely by prosecutors rather than by impartial judges. Why not have a Florida Pretrial Intervention system which has input from Judges, social workers and even may I say, defense lawyers?

Why not expand the program to include others? Shouldn’t the criminal justice system be finding more ways to help those charged with crime so that the underlying reasons for the criminal conduct never recurs? Though this Veterans Intervention Program is excellent news for every veteran one wonders how long it will take for inclusive beneficial programs for those accused of crimes who may have suffered Post Dramatic Stress Syndrome from being the victim of a crime such as rape or other violent crime. 

Meanwhile as all Florida counties have some form of Pretrial Intervention, some counties in Florida are experimenting with civil citation programs for nonviolent offenders, but Federal courts are woefully behind and should embrace a Federal Pretrial Intervention Program for nonviolent, first time offenders.