How to Become Eligible for the New Jersey Veterans Criminal Diversion Program
If you are a military veteran, being charged with a criminal offense can be terrifying. When you are dealing with a prosecutor who is not a military veteran, they will not fully understand what it’s like to be deployed to a combat zone or encounter the death and destruction that many military veterans have.
Fortunately, a two-year old program exists, at least in some NJ Counties, called the Veterans Criminal Diversion Program. If you have questions on the Veterans Criminal Diversion Program, it’s essential to speak with a skilled New Jersey criminal lawyer who has experience defending military veterans. At Citizen Soldier Law, our legal team includes military veterans, former Army Judge Advocates and a New Jersey Supreme Court-Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer. We are here to provide the best defense possible and answer any questions you have during the process.
What Is the New Jersey Veterans Criminal Diversion Program?
Understandably, one of your first questions may be related to what the diversion program is and whether it’s something you would be eligible for. The Veterans Criminal Diversion Program was signed into law in 2017. It acknowledges that many deployed military members returning from war may be dealing with some mental illness, like depression, PTSD, or an adjustment disorder. Some military veterans may also suffer from a substance abuse or addiction problem.
This addiction or substance abuse problem is often why a military veteran is arrested and facing criminal charges. Instead of the veteran’s case progressing through the regular New Jersey court system, they would be eligible to follow down a different path.
The main goal with a diversion program like this is to resolve the underlying issues that either led to or contributed to whatever criminal activity landed them in the position they are in now.
What Offenses Qualify for the Diversion Program?
In most cases, eligible offenses involve non-violent offenses but many Counties will consider other charges, on a case by case basis. Middlesex, Atlantic, Camden and Hunterdon Counties have done great work so far. Examples include a disorderly conduct or a petty disorderly charge. Also, certain third- or fourth-degree crimes like simple drug possession, shoplifting, or trespassing qualify. If you are facing more severe charges, your attorney’s skill becomes so important, especially in the context of assaults and domestic violence (TROs and FROs). Depending on the nature of the alleged crime, there may be other types of diversion programs you could qualify for. Your New Jersey criminal attorney will research all potential options.
Who is Eligible for the Diversion Program?
The Veterans Diversion Program is available for military members, including veterans, active duty, Reserve, and National Guard, provided they have a diagnosis of mental illness. If there is no confirmed diagnosis, but you displayed concerning symptoms to friends, family, law enforcement officers, or other prosecutors, who bring their concerns to the New Jersey prosecutor responsible for your case, that would be critically helpful. It is difficult to self-diagnose a mental health problem. The prosecutor in charge is the one who will decide whether you are eligible and how long you should remain in the program.
How the Diversion Program Works
Instead of undergoing a criminal trial, the court enrolls you into supervision for a specified time. It could be from six months to up to two years. During your supervision period, you can’t get in trouble again, use drugs or alcohol, possess a weapon, etc. If you make it through the specified period, the prosecutor will drop the charges.
Contact a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
To learn more about the diversion program and whether you qualify, let our New Jersey criminal defense attorney help. Contact Citizen Soldier Law today to schedule an initial consultation.