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Good news for Memphis veterans facing criminal charges

Returning to civilian life after military service is an extremely difficult process for many veterans in Memphis and throughout the nation. In fact, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that between 7 and 10 percent of all people who are incarcerated are also veterans, and that is one reason Shelby County recently established a Veterans' Court to help returning service members navigate the criminal justice system.

Veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder are especially prone to medicate themselves in some way or another. That kind of self-medication can lead to serious substance abuse, which in many cases results to criminal charges.

That is why the new program will start for eligible veterans as soon as they are taken to jail. They will each have a mentor who is also a veteran, and the VA will provide other mental health services, such as counseling for substance abuse.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell recently expressed his support of the new court. He said, "I think it's the least we can do for people who have worn the uniform and made that commitment that they've made to serve the country." He went on to note the immense stresses that wartime veterans endure, saying that society has a duty to try and help them.

Not every veteran will be eligible to take part in the program, however. Those charged with drunk driving and violent felonies will not be referred to the new court.

While this program is good news for many Memphis veterans, service members who have been accused of a crime should still take the necessary steps to put forth a strong criminal defense. The justice system can be tricky, and retaining a criminal defense attorney who is fluent in the law can make all the difference.

Source: The Commercial Appeal, "Memphis Veterans' Court helps vets navigate criminal justice system," Linda A. Moore, July 24, 2012

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