2023 Florida Statutes< Back to Statute Search
Title XXIX PUBLIC HEALTH
Chapter 394 MENTAL HEALTH
SECTION 47891Veterans treatment court programs.
394.47891 Veterans treatment court programs.—
(1) LEGISLATIVE INTENT.—It is the intent of the Legislature to encourage and support the judicial circuits of the state and other agencies, local governments, interested public and private entities, and individuals to create and maintain a veterans treatment court program in each judicial circuit. The purpose of a veterans treatment court program is to address the underlying causes of a veteran’s involvement with the judicial system through the use of specialized dockets, multidisciplinary teams, and evidence-based treatment. A veterans treatment court program shall use nonadversarial approaches to resolve such underlying causes. Veterans treatment court programs depend on the leadership of attorneys and judges or magistrates who are educated in the issues and science of veterans’ behaviors leading to court involvement and require a rigorous team effort to detect, discern, and assist veterans in correcting the behaviors and choices that lead to the veterans’ court involvement. This section creates a detailed statewide standard for the creation, operation, and procedures for veterans treatment court programs.
(2) DEFINITIONS.—For purposes of this section, the term:
(a) “Defendant” means a veteran or servicemember who has been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense.
(b) “Military sexual trauma” means psychological trauma that results from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while a servicemember or veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.
(c) “Servicemember” means:
1. A member of the active or reserve components of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force, or Coast Guard;
2. A member of the Florida National Guard;
3. A current or former contractor for the United States Department of Defense; or
4. A current or former military member of a foreign allied country.
(d) “Veteran” means a person who has served in the military.
(e) “Veterans treatment court program” means a specialized docket administered by a court for veterans and servicemembers as set forth in this section.
(a) A court with jurisdiction over criminal cases may create and administer a veterans treatment court program.
(b) A veterans treatment court program may adjudicate misdemeanors and felonies.
(c) The chief judge may issue administrative orders concerning the veterans treatment court program.
(d) The chief judge and state attorney of the judicial circuit that creates and administers a veterans treatment court program have the exclusive authority to determine whether veterans who have been dishonorably discharged may participate in the veterans treatment court program within the circuit.
(4) ADMISSION.—A defendant who meets the eligibility requirements under subsection (8) may be admitted to a veterans treatment court program at any stage of a criminal proceeding. A defendant seeking to participate in a veterans treatment court program must submit an application to the state attorney. The state attorney must review each application and determine whether the defendant meets the eligibility requirements in subsection (8).
(5) RECORD OF POLICIES AND PROCEDURES.—
(a) Each veterans treatment court program shall seek input from the state attorney and other interested persons in developing and adopting policies and procedures to implement subsections (6) and (7).
(b) A veterans treatment court program shall create a record of the policies and procedures adopted to implement subsections (6) and (7).
(6) KEY COMPONENTS OF A VETERANS TREATMENT COURT PROGRAM.—
(a) A veterans treatment court program shall adopt policies and procedures to implement the following key components, including:
1. Integrating substance abuse and mental health treatment services, and any other related treatment and rehabilitation services with justice system case processing.
2. Using a nonadversarial approach in which the state attorney and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting the due process rights of the defendant.
3. Providing for early identification of eligible defendants.
4. Monitoring defendants for abstinence from alcohol and drugs by frequent testing.
5. Providing ongoing judicial interaction with each defendant.
6. Monitoring and evaluating the achievement of each defendant’s program goals.
7. Forging partnerships among the veterans treatment court programs, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, public agencies, and community-based organizations to generate local support and enhance the effectiveness of the veterans treatment court program.
(b) In adopting policies and procedures under this section, the court shall consult nationally recognized best practices related to the key components of veterans treatment court programs.
(7) SUPPLEMENTAL POLICIES AND PROCEDURES OF VETERANS TREATMENT COURT PROGRAMS.—A veterans treatment court program may adopt supplemental policies and procedures to:
(a) Refer a defendant with a medical need to an appropriate health care provider or refer a defendant for appropriate assistance, including assistance with housing, employment, nutrition, mentoring, education, and driver license reinstatement.
(b) Otherwise encourage participation in the veterans treatment court program.
(a) A defendant may participate in a veterans treatment court program if he or she is approved by the state attorney, in consultation with the court, and meets the following criteria:
1. The defendant has a service-related mental health condition, service-related traumatic brain injury, service-related substance use disorder, or service-related psychological problem or has experienced military sexual trauma.
2. The defendant’s participation in the veterans treatment court program is in the interest of justice and of benefit to the defendant and the community.
(b) In making the determination under subparagraph (a)2., the state attorney, in consultation with the court, must consider:
1. The nature and circumstances of the offense charged.
2. The special characteristics or circumstances of the defendant and any victim or alleged victim, including any recommendation of the victim or alleged victim.
3. The defendant’s criminal history and whether the defendant previously participated in a veterans treatment court program or similar program.
4. Whether the defendant’s needs exceed the treatment resources available to the veterans treatment court program.
5. The impact on the community of the defendant’s participation and treatment in the veterans treatment court program.
6. Recommendations of any law enforcement agency involved in investigating or arresting the defendant.
7. If the defendant owes restitution, the likelihood of payment during the defendant’s participation in the veterans treatment court program.
8. Any mitigating circumstances.
9. Any other circumstances reasonably related to the defendant’s case.
(9) LIBERAL CONSTRUCTION.—The provisions of this section shall be liberally construed.
(10) NO RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE.—This section does not create a right of a veteran or servicemember to participate in a veterans treatment court program.
(11) MILITARY VETERANS AND SERVICEMEMBERS COURT PROGRAMS IN OPERATION ON OR BEFORE JUNE 30, 2021.—A Military Veterans and Servicemembers Court Program in operation under this section on or before June 30, 2021, may continue to operate but must comply with the amendments made by this act to subsections (1)-(10). This act does not affect or alter the rights or responsibilities of any person who, on or before June 30, 2021, was admitted to and participating in a Military Veterans and Servicemembers Court Program established under this section.
History.—s. 17, ch. 2012-159; s. 9, ch. 2016-127; s. 1, ch. 2019-61; ss. 1, 8, ch. 2021-240.