Consult with attorneys appearing in any branch of Military Diversion Departments or U.S. District Court for Southern District of California Veterans Treatment Court to explain the process and how to advise clients regarding benefits and requirements.
Provide direct advice to pro per veteran defendants prior to arraignment to advise them of their process, the CA statutes that might affect their case, where to seek treatment if applicable, and how to navigate military commands so their rights are not abridged prior to the assignment of defense counsel.
Provide assistance to other attorneys representing veterans on a myriad of issues.
Assist Court Staffs in departments with jurisdiction on military diversion cases in San Diego Superior Court. Clerks have CVLTF business cards to use when they refer attorneys or pro per
defendants to CVLTF for assistance.
Our specific activities regarding criminal law include:
Consultations with defense counsel representing veterans in San Diego criminal cases
• Walk through defense options and explain PC 1170.9, PC1001.80 and PC1170.91 to counsel.
• Help counsel/client navigate military and Veterans Affairs system to acquire records and expert reports needed to apply for Veterans Treatment Court or Military Diversion to effect treatment in lieu of conviction and incarceration.
• Help avoiding Collateral Consequences under Military Law. Helping convince the active duty client’s command to not courts martial or administratively separate him/her upon plea (PC 1170.9) or before completion of treatment programs under PC 1170.9 & 1001.80.
• Maintain education information on CVLTF website/social media.
• Assist with plea agreements – explaining military collateral consequences of charges and convictions to defense counsel for active duty defendants.
• Consultations with Military Commands to explain general provisions of CA law that may apply to their service members.
• Consult with defense counsel whose clients seek entry into local San Diego Superior Court Veterans Treatment Court.
• Consult with attorneys appearing in any branch of Military Diversion Departments or U.S. District Court for Southern District of California Veterans Treatment Court to explain the process and how to advise clients regarding benefits and requirements.
Veterans Legal Assistance and Referral Clinic (VLARC) provides free legal assistance to poor, mentally challenged veterans most at risk of becoming or remaining homeless in exchange for their agreement to seek treatment for their mental health conditions. We help clients remove legal obstacles to benefits, housing and employment.
To qualify for services, the Veteran must fill out an application at one of the MVRC offices. They must be indigent (earn $28,500 per year or less) and be in Mental Health treatment or willing to be in treatment.
3) Legislation Education – Veterans Issues
Our work with veterans yielded significantly good outcomes from Veterans Treatment Courts and Military Diversion such that it is being used as a model statute for expansion of the trauma treatments to the civilian population through Mental Health Diversion. While these issues are being litigated and prosecutors and defense bar negotiates them, CVLTF has the experience to assist and the expertise to discern whether veterans should be treated under the traditional veterans mental health diversion programs or transferred into the mainstream of mental health diversion. This experience will be helpful in assisting indigent defense counsel during the upcoming year and near future.
In 2017, CVLTF helped to educate the public and justice system professionals around the state about the need to include all misdemeanor matters in the Military Diversion Programs under Penal Code 1001.80. Part of this education included legislators who were moved to change the law through better understanding of veterans receiving treatment in lieu of incarceration. This was necessary because in some counties, veterans with DUI misdemeanors were being excluded and stuck in the middle of a Supreme Court challenge. Many were active duty members whose careers and VA healthcare benefits would terminate if they were not permitted to get treatment for their military related mental health conditions and instead were convicted and incarcerated without any viable treatment. CVLTF educated California legislators and encouraged them to see the positive outcomes of treatment with our data and expertise. Our testimony was a significant reason our lawmakers now see these veteran defendants in a different light than non-traumatized DUI offenders and provide for their diversion.
In 2018, CVLTF conducted a pilot program in the East County branch where we completed Judicial Council form MIL-100 (mandated in 2015) with every active duty and veteran defendant appearing at arraignment. This intervention advised these veterans of their rights and options under CA law in their criminal case and identified them so they can be compared to a baseline control group to determine whether this knowledge of programs elicits more to opt into treatment than those who did not receive such advice. In this project, we also met with many of their defense counsel and provided guidance to them on how to pursue these programs. The pilot will conclude the end of October and results will be reported soon thereafter.