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;