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VETS MAY BE ABLE TO AVOID JAIL TIME WHEN CONVICTED OF CERTAIN CRIMES.

This article discusses a relatively little known law, California Penal Code Section 1170.9. 

PC §1170.9 applies when a veteran is convicted of a crime where a sentence would result in jail or prison time.  If the defendant veteran alleges that he or she committed the crime or offense as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, or psychological  problems stemming from service in U.S. military combat, then the court, prior to sentencing, shall hold a hearing to determine the merits of the allegation.

If the court concludes that a defendant veteran is otherwise eligible for probation, and the court places the defendant on probation, the court may order the defendant into a local, state, federal, or private nonprofit treatment program for a period not to exceed that which the defendant would have served in state prison or county jail.  However, the defendant must agree to participate in the program.   Further, the court must  determine that an appropriate treatment program exists.

Below is the complete Penal Code code section:

1170.9. (a) In the case of any person convicted of a criminal offense who would otherwise be sentenced to county jail or state prison and who alleges that he or she committed the offense as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or psychological problems stemming from service in a combat theater in the United States military, the court shall, prior to sentencing, hold a hearing to determine whether the defendant was a member of the military forces of the United States who served in combat and shall assess whether the defendant suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or psychological problems as a result of that service.

 (b) If the court concludes that a defendant convicted of a criminal offense is a person described in subdivision (a), and if the defendant is otherwise eligible for probation and the court places the defendant on probation, the court may order the defendant into a local, state, federal, or private nonprofit treatment program for a period not to exceed that which the defendant would have served in state prison or county jail, provided the defendant agrees to participate in the program and the court determines that an appropriate treatment program exists.

  (c) If a referral is made to the county mental health authority, the county shall be obligated to provide mental health treatment services only to the extent that resources are available for that purpose, as described in paragraph (5) of subdivision (b) of Section 5600.3 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. If mental health treatment services are ordered by the court, the county mental health agency shall coordinate appropriate referral of the defendant to the county veterans service officer, as described in paragraph (5) of subdivision (b) of Section 5600.3 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. The county mental health agency shall not be responsible for providing services outside its traditional scope of services. An order shall be made referring a defendant to a county mental health agency only if that agency has agreed to accept responsibility for the treatment of the defendant.

  (d) When determining the "needs of the defendant," for purposes of Section 1202.7, the court shall consider the fact that the defendant is a person described in subdivision (a) in assessing whether the defendant should be placed on probation and whether the defendant would be best served while on probation by being ordered into a private nonprofit treatment service program with a demonstrated history of specializing in the treatment of military service-related issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or psychological problems.

  (e) A defendant granted probation under this section and committed to a residential treatment program shall earn sentence credits for the actual time the defendant served in residential treatment.

 (f) The court, in making an order under this section to commit a defendant to an established treatment program, shall give preference to a treatment program that has a history of successfully treating combat veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or psychological problems as a result of that service.

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