The military plays a huge role in the country, protecting its borders as well as American interests overseas. In this all-volunteer military, sometimes traumatic events experienced during active duty can result in serious problems at home and veterans find themselves behind bars.
To help combat this issue, the Minnesota legislature has been attempting to pass the Veteran’s Restorative Justice Act.
Unfortunately, as of late 2020, the bill has yet to be passed in the Minnesota House due to last-minute amendments. This only delays the help this bill could offer to the number of veterans living in Minnesota today.
So what is the Veteran’s Restorative Justice Act and how can it help vets who are running into legal trouble stateside? Read on to find out.
Minnesota’s Veteran’s Restorative Justice Act
Hundreds of thousands of veterans return home from deployment only to find that they have significant difficulties assimilating back into civilian life.
This is sometimes due to physical or even psychological injuries from their duties. These injuries can also lead to involvement in the criminal justice system. Many of the injured vets who are arrested need treatment and rehabilitation, not jail.
A Proposal to Better Address All Minnesotans’ Needs
While it is true that a few counties in Minnesota have treatment courts for veterans, the Minnesota legislature agrees that a state-wide system needs to be implemented to help deal with these veteran’s issues.
Under the Act, courts would be empowered, just as other treatment courts are, to offer programs aimed to help protect public safety, but also to reduce recidivism among veterans, all while saving taxpayer dollars.
If the Act one day passes, a statewide restorative post-plea adjudication model will be established to help veterans that have become involved in the criminal justice system.
What does that mean?
The Court Process Under New Legislation
It means that when a veteran goes through the court process under the proposed Act, they will enter a plea that is not recorded or accepted by the court.
Then, they’ll complete the treatment and terms of supervision set by the judge and the charges will be dismissed without their conviction being entered.
If they do not complete the agreed-upon treatment or commits another crime, then the courts can use their plea and subsequent conviction to impose other punishments, such as incarceration.
MN Crimes to Be Covered Under the Act
The Veteran’s Restorative Justice Act is intended to apply to those vets who commit crimes as a result of mental health conditions, traumatic brain injuries, substance abuse conditions, post-traumatic stress disorder, or sexual trauma that stemmed from their service in the military.
The court will have the discretion to decide whether their offense qualifies them for treatment programs or not, but it’s a good chance for many vets to get the help they need instead of simply going to jail for crimes related to issues they have from their service.
The bottom line is that rehabilitative approaches instead of punitive measures for veterans would be justice.
These men and women served our country, many gone to war, and our society and government both should bear the responsibility of ensuring they are cared for even when they break the law as a result of their time in action.
Hopefully, the state legislature will soon find a way forward with this Act and helping veterans to get the treatment they need for service-related conditions.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is an AV-Preeminent rated criminal and DWI defense attorney based in Minneapolis who is known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge and named a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law by the Minnesota Bar Association. Mr. Keyser is Lead Counsel rated, and he has received recognition for his criminal law work from Avvo, Expertise, Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, and more.