Last May, the Massachusetts Legislature passed an important piece of legislation regarding veterans’ rights, which has important implications for veterans facing criminal charges.
The complete formal title, “An Act Relative to Veterans’
Access, Livelihood, Opportunity and Resources,” and is also commonly referred to as the Valor Act. Among the various provisions and benefits of the act, is a section providing for the assessment and pretrial diversion for qualifying veterans, active service members, and other defendants in criminal cases with qualifying military history.
According to the provisions of the law, and recent direction within the District Court, judges have discretion to recommend a pretrial diversion program for any individual who meets all of the following criteria. The person must be:
- A veteran, active service member or person with other military history (meeting certain requirements);
- Charged with a state crime, which carries potential prison time;
- Since turning 18, has not previously been convicted of any state or federal crimes, with some exceptions for traffic violations, and has not previously served jail time;
- Does not have outstanding warrants, continuances, appeals or criminal cases pending before any state or federal courts;
If the person meets all of the above requirements, then the judge has the ability to grant a minimum 14 day period of diversion time (though the court has discretion for a 30 day continuance) for the person to be assessed for a pretrial diversion program. The assessment is sought through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services, or by another relevant state or federal agency which has knowledge and experience regarding veterans affairs. The assessment and relevant probation officials are then to provide the court with the findings regarding whether the person would benefit from entering into a potential program.
The court may additionally grant a 14 day continuance for individuals who do not initially meet the program requirements. This could mean that individuals who are not first time offenders may be able to pursue the benefits of this pretrial diversion program. The court will not do this on its own volition, it will only grant the discretionary pretrial diversion upon a motion from the defendant, should the judge agree the defendant is worthy. This requires a compelling argument by your criminal defense attorney as to why you should be entitled to the benefits of this program.
Additionally, even though the foregoing is great news for veterans and other eligible military members, the court does not have the authority to have charges dismissed. That power lies solely with the prosecutor and the state. It is therefore critical to have a qualified criminal defense attorney on your side who can make the pretrial diversion program and potential probationary supervision contingent upon dismissal of the charges.
Whatever the offense you are charged with, let experienced and dedicated attorney Patrick J. Murphy fight for your right to a pretrial diversion program. Patrick J. Murphy is a Boston Massachusetts criminal defense attorney whose entire practice is dedicated to Massachusetts criminal defense. For nearly 20 years, Attorney Murphy has been devoted to aggressively and successfully defending clients and providing representation on a wide range of criminal defense matters.
To schedule a your confidential consultation, you can contact us online, or call anytime to 617-367-0450.
More Blog Posts:
Massachusetts to Establish Anti-Crime Task Force, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published February 20, 2013
The Crime of Armed Robbery in a Massachusetts Coffee House, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published November 8, 2012
Massachusetts Adopts Tough Three Strikes Law Known as Melissa’s Bill, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published August 31, 2012