Military veterans who have served this country often feel like they are left behind after they leave the service. Many service members have suffered trauma in combat and may continue to suffer mental health problems when they return to civilian life. For some types of criminal charges, veterans are eligible for a pretrial diversion program to have charges dismissed after completing the military diversion.
After an arrest for a misdemeanor offense, like a California DUI, drug possession, or domestic violence, can result in a permanent criminal record. If you are a military service member or veteran in California who is arrested for a misdemeanor crime, you may be eligible for a diversion program to keep your record clear and help you get back to a life with your family. After an arrest in the East Bay, contact East Bay criminal defense attorney Lynn Gorelick.
Military Diversion Programs Under the California Penal Code
Military service members and veterans of the armed forces may be eligible to go through a diversion program after being charged with a crime instead of facing court. Under California Penal Code 1170.9, the court can evaluate a military service member or veteran for diversion where the crime was committed as a result of military-related:
- Sexual trauma;
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI);
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
- Substance abuse; or
- Mental health problems
To be eligible, the court shall determine whether the defendant was, or currently is, a member of the United States military and whether the trauma or abuse problems are as a result of the person's service.
If the court determines the service member or veteran qualifies and is eligible for probation, probationary terms may be based on their individual situation. For example, when the defendant agrees, the court can order the defendant into a treatment program, to provide substance abuse treatment, counseling, and other mental health services.
Veterans Court Restorative Relief
The purpose of these types of diversion programs is to help get the individual the assistance they need to return to the community. When determining whether to grant restorative relief, the court can consider a number of factors, including the defendant's:
- Completion and participation in education, treatment, and rehabilitation
- Progress in formal education
- Development of career potential
- Leadership and personal responsibility efforts
- Contribution of service in support of the community
Completion of the Diversion Program
The terms of probation may include counseling sessions, substance abuse treatment, vocational training, community service, and other treatment. To qualify for restorative justice, the defendant has to meet the following conditions:
- The defendant was granted probation.
- The defendant is in substantial compliance with the conditions of probation.
- The defendant has successfully participated in court-ordered treatment and services to address the trauma, TBI, PTSD, substance abuse, or mental health problems stemming from military service.
- The defendant does not represent a danger to the health and safety of others.
- The defendant has demonstrated significant benefit from court-ordered education, treatment, or rehabilitation to clearly show that granting restorative relief pursuant to this subdivision would be in the interests of justice.
After completing the program and meeting the requirements, the court can terminate probation, including any fines, fees, and assessments. The defendant may be able to withdraw their guilty plea and enter a plea of not guilty and the court can set aside the verdict. This effectively means that the defendant will not have a criminal conviction on their record after completing the diversion program.
Violating the Terms of Probation in Veteran Court Diversion
If you do not complete the program, then the court could immediately reinstate any jail or prison sentence, minus time served under the probation program. However, one violation does not automatically mean that you will be kicked out of the program. If you missed a session, had a relapse, or otherwise failed the terms of probation, your attorney can advocate for you to remain in the program so you can benefit from having your charges dismissed and keeping a clean record.
What Offenses Are Eligible for Military Diversion?
Military diversion programs are generally eligible for misdemeanor charges and some wobbler offenses. A “wobbler” is a criminal offense that could be charged as either a misdemeanor or as a felony. The consequences of a felony are generally much more severe than a misdemeanor. A felony conviction could limit your ability to own or possess a firearm, be eligible for government benefits, and impair job opportunities.
In some cases, a felony offense could be reduced to a misdemeanor upon completion of the diversion program. If you were charged with a felony or are not sure whether your charges are eligible, talk to your criminal defense attorney about how you can qualify for diversion.
Some criminal offenses are generally not eligible for dismissal under the military diversion program in California, including statutory rape, certain sex crimes, and the requirement to register as a sex offender.
Military Members in the East Bay
There are a number of military bases and installations in and around the East Bay, including:
- In Coast Guard Island Alameda
- Army Military Ocean Terminal Concord
- Coast Guard Station Vallejo
- Travis Air Force Base
- Army Camp Parks in Dublin
The East Bay is also home to many military veterans who have since retired or continued on to civilian careers. According to the California Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2022, there were an estimated 39,530 veterans in Alameda County and 37,790 veterans in Contra Costa County.
The military diversion program is available to both former and current members of the U.S. military. If you have questions about diversion programs after an arrest in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the needs of veterans and service members facing criminal charges.
Diversion for Veterans to Avoid a Criminal Record
If you are a service member or military veteran who was arrested for a crime in the East Bay, talk to a criminal defense attorney about your rights. East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 38 years of criminal defense experience and understands how to approach each case for the greatest chance for success. Representing individuals in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local diversion programs, prosecutors, and judges involved in cases just like yours.