Colorado’s Veterans Trauma Court (VTC) permits eligible military members facing felony prosecution to undergo rehabilitation instead of jail. Upon successful completion of VTC, the charges may be reduced or dismissed.
VTC is an alternative sentencing program geared for military veterans with
- Trauma Spectrum Disorder or
- substance abuse issues.
Most veteran service members who finish the VTC court program do not get into trouble with the justice system again.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense attorneys answer frequently asked questions about Veterans Trauma Court in Colorado. Click on a topic to jump to that section.
- 1. What is Veterans Court in Colorado?
- 2. Am I eligible?
- 3. How do I apply?
- 4. Do I still have to go to jail?
- 5. Will my case get dismissed if I complete Veterans Court?
- 6. What happens if I violate the rules?
- 7. What if I do not finish?
- 8. Does my jurisdiction offer Veterans Court?
1. What is Veterans Trauma Court in Colorado?
VTC is an intensive counseling program that seeks to rehabilitate military members instead of punishing criminal behavior. VTC involves
- treatment for addiction and mental health,
- regular court appearances, and
VTC also connects you to
- peer support,
- mentor programs, and
- educational, housing, and employment resources.
VTC has four “phases” you have to complete:
- Stabilization: a minimum of 60 days
- Engagement: a minimum of 90 days
- Action: a minimum of 90 days
- Maintenance: a minimum of 120 days
Considered a “problem-solving court,” VTC demands sobriety, including no ingestion of
- drugs or
You get routinely drug tested and may be ordered to wear SCRAM alcohol-monitoring bracelets.
Upon successful completion of the criminal case, the judge may
2. Am I eligible?
In most cases, you have to meet the following eligibility criteria:
- you have served in the military (the National Guard counts);
- you are facing a criminal charge (typically a lower-level felony); and
- you have a substance-abuse addiction or Trauma Spectrum Disorder, such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
VTC typically will not accept you if you have been charged with…or have been convicted of…either of the following:
- a sex crime,
- a felony crime involving injury to a child,
- an offense where you had a firearm and injured someone,
- an offense which resulted in a victim dying or sustaining substantial bodily harm, or
- a domestic violence offense involving strangulation or stalking
Additionally, VTC typically will not take you if you have been previously convicted of a felony which:
- involved the use…or threatened use…of a firearm in the course of the crime,
- resulted in the death or serious bodily injury to a person, or
- included stalking
Ultimately, the local district attorney’s office determines who is eligible for VTC and reserves the right to reject your request for participation.2
3. How do I apply?
You can self-refer or get a referral by your
- public defender,
- family members, or
- VTC peer mentors.
Typically, the first step involves attending a VTC briefing. Then you have to provide proof of service (DD214 or ERB/ORB) and complete a Risk and Needs Assessment (RANT). The D.A.’s office makes the final decision.3
4. Do I still have to go to jail?
In many cases, if you are accepted into VTC, you do not have to do more time as long as you follow the rules and complete the program.4
5. Will my case get dismissed if I complete Veterans Trauma Court in Colorado?
Every case is different and depends on the terms of your initial plea agreement. In many cases, a benefit of finishing VTC is that the court will dismiss your criminal charge.5
6. What happens if I violate the rules of Veterans Court in Colorado?
The penalty for breaking VTC rules varies from a warning to being kicked out of the program. Specifically, the possible “sanctions” include:
- judicial reprimand or admonishment,
- more appointments with the probation officer,
- more court appearances,
- community service,
- returning to an earlier “phase” in the VTC program,
- disqualification from the program,
Note that the following are some examples of infractions that violate VTC rules:
- missing treatment or probation appointments,
- missing a court appearance,
- failing to provide a urine sample, providing a positive or dilute sample, or tampering with a sample,
- failing to take prescribed medications as instructed by treatment providers,
- violating probation terms,
- being non-compliant with the treatment plan,
- abusing drugs or alcohol, and
- picking up new criminal charges6
7. What if I do not finish?
If the judge terminates you from the program for non-compliance, the judge will impose all penalties you would have received had you not entered VTC.7
8. Does my jurisdiction offer Veterans Trauma Court in Colorado?
VTC is usually available in the following districts:
- Colorado Springs,
- Centennial, and
- El Paso County (4th Judicial District).
For the most current list of locations and contact information, click here.
See also the U.S. Department of Veterans Justice Outreach Program.
- Veterans Treatment Court, Colorado Judicial Branch. Criteria for Movement from Phase 1 to Phase 2: Stabilization, Colorado Judicial Branch.
- Same. Colorado Problem-Solving Court Standards, Colorado Judicial Branch (March, 2019). CRS 13-5-144. CRS 16-7-207.5.
- Same. Phase Guidelines, Colorado Judicial Branch.
- Same. CRS 18-1.3-202.5. See also People v. Barnett (Court of Appeals of Colorado, Division Four, 2020) 490 P.3d 1000.
- Veterans Court, Colorado Judicial Branch.