Veterans Courts Q&A

Q: What are veterans courts?

A: Veterans courts are specialty courts that seek to address the particular challenges that many veterans face with mental illness and substance addiction. They emphasize the delivery of treatment, not the infliction of punishment, as the right response to many types of offenses, rather than the often punitive responses of the criminal law.

At the Law Offices of Derek P. Wisehart, we are excited about the opportunity that the Veterans Court in Tulare County offers for the resolution of legal disputes.

If you are a vet who has gotten in trouble with the law, we encourage you to call us to discuss your specific case in a free consultation. You can reach us at our office in Visalia at 559-429-5630 or 800-742-6392.

Q: Does Tulare County have a veterans court?

A: Yes. Tulare County created its veterans court in 2010. Not all counties in California have these courts.

Q: Am I eligible for veterans court?

A: To be eligible for the Tulare County Veterans Court, there are several eligibility criteria you must meet. For starters, the offense you are charged with must not be classified as a serious or violent felony. In addition:

  • You must provide documentation of combat service and be no longer on active duty.
  • You must also be a resident of Tulare County and voluntarily agree to participate.
  • You have to sign a waiver to release your medical records.

Referrals to veterans court come from various stakeholders in the justice system, including police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges or probation officers. The key question, ultimately, is whether you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a substance abuse problem or a mental health issue that is best addressed in a treatment setting rather than in the regular criminal justice system.

Q: I know I am eligible for the program. But will my case be considered suitable?

A: That depends on your specific circumstances. Talk with your defense attorney about this.

Q: How does the program work?

A: If the court accepts you into the program, you will have to plead guilty to the offense you have been charged with. But you will have a chance to get the charges dismissed entirely if you complete the program successfully.

Q: How long does the program last?

A: At least 18 months. A veterans court judge will check on your progress monthly throughout this time, including your compliance with random drug checks.

Q: Can I get help to re-engage in civilian life?

A: Yes. Talk with your defense lawyer about how this program fits with your larger life goals.