Colorado’s Veterans Trauma Court (VTC) permits eligible military members facing felony prosecution to undergo rehabilitation instead of jail. And 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 with substance abuse issues. The majority of 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 them for criminal behavior. VTC involves treatment for addiction and mental health, regular court appearances, and supervision. VTC also connects participants to peer support, mentor programs, and educational, housing, and employment resources.
VTC has four “phases” participants 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 alcohol, drugs or marijuana. VTC participants get routinely drug tested and may be ordered to wear SCRAM alcohol-monitoring bracelets.
2. Am I eligible?
In most cases, a VTC participant has to meet the following eligibility criteria:
- the defendant is or has served in the military (the National Guard counts);
- the defendant is facing a criminal charge (typically a lower-level felony); and
- the defendant has a substance-abuse addiction or Trauma Spectrum Disorder, such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
VTC typically does not accept Colorado veteran defendants who have been charged with…or who have been convicted of…either of the following:
- a sex crime,
- a felony crime involving injury to a child,
- an offense where the defendant 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 does not allow defendants who 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 which defendants are eligible for VTC and reserves the right to reject a veteran’s request for participation.
3. How do I apply?
Veterans can self-refer or get a referral by their attorneys, public defender, family members, or VTC peer mentors. Typically, the first step involves attending a VTC briefing. Then the veteran has to provide proof of service (DD214 or ERB/ORB), complete a Risk and Needs Assessment (RANT). The D.A.’s office makes the final decision.
4. Do I still have to go to jail?
In many cases, veterans who are accepted into VTC do not have to do more time as long as they follow the rules and complete the program.
5. Will my case get dismissed if I complete Veterans Trauma Court in Colorado?
Every case is different and depends on the terms of the veteran’s initial plea agreement. But in many cases, a benefit of finishing VTC is that the court will dismiss the veteran’s criminal charge.
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 charges
7. What if I do not finish?
If the judge terminates a veteran from the program for non-compliance, the judge will impose all penalties the veteran would have received had he/she not entered VTC.
8. Does my jurisdiction offer Veterans Trauma Court in Colorado?
VTC is usually available in the following districts: Golden, Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Brighton, Centennial, and El Paso County (4th Judicial District). For the most current list of locations and contact information, click here.
Call a Colorado criminal defense attorney…
Are you a veteran or active duty military member who is facing criminal prosecution in Colorado? We are grateful for your military service, and our Denver criminal defense attorneys are here for you. We will fight to get your charges lessened or dismissed. And depending on the case, we may be able to get you admitted to Veterans Trauma Court to avoid jail and get help. Call us today at (303)222-0330 for a free consultation.
See also the U.S. Department of Veterans Justice Outreach Program.