Do Veterans Get Special Treatment in Criminal Courts?


Yes.  Military veterans do get special treatment in the criminal courts.

The California Legislature has enacted several sentencing schemes to give special or preferential treatment to veterans in criminal cases who are suffering from specified conditions.  All misdemeanor charges can be diverted from sentencing and conviction completely under specific circumstances.  For a description of how misdemeanor charges can be diverted, see my blog post: Are Veterans Eligible for Diversion?

Veterans who are not eligible for diversion, or who have been charged with a felony offense, may still be eligible for preferential treatment.  According to Penal Code section 1170.9, if a veteran convicted of a criminal offense claims that he or she committed the offense as a result of sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems stemming from service in the United States military, the court must make a determination of whether the person was a member of the United States military and suffering from one of the enumerated disorders.  (Penal Code section 1170.9(a).)

If the court finds that the person meets the criteria in subdivision (a), then the court MUST consider this fact as a factor in favor of granting probation.  (Penal Code section 1170.9(b)(1).)

If probation is granted, and the person successfully completes probation, the court may then reduce eligible felony charges to misdemeanors, and then dismiss the charges.  (Penal Code section 1170.9(h)(3).)

If a veteran meets the requirements of Penal Code section 1170.9(a), but is not granted probation, the court is REQUIRED to consider the fact of meeting the requirements of Penal Code section 1170.9(a) as a factor in mitigation when imposing a prison term.  (Penal Code section 1170.91.)

If you are looking for an experienced, reliable criminal defense attorney who understands all aspects of resolving a criminal case and will work to keep your criminal history clear, schedule an appointment on this web site or call to set up a time to meet and discuss your case.