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El Dorado and Riverside Counties To Begin Operating Vet Courts

SACRAMENTO – On January 5, 2012, the El Dorado and Riverside County Superior Courts will begin their first day of hearings in specialized veterans treatment courts. These new "Vet Courts" are the result of planning and collaboration between local veterans services advocates, the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet), and Superior Court judges. Over the past year, CalVet has worked with individual counties to help set up these Vet Courts, which take a veteran's psychological and physical issues into account when that individual has broken the law.

"Riverside and El Dorado counties are the most recent counties that have committed to helping our veterans in this manner," said CalVet Secretary, Peter Gravett. "There are now 15 counties that have Vet Courts or something similar. Our goal is to have Vet Courts in at least 20 counties by this summer, while still pushing to open more."

Vet Courts are designed to focus on the specialized needs of veterans who may be suffering from service-related disabilities or illnesses. Due to the complexities of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, and military sexual trauma, men and women who have served their country in a war zone often go for months, or even years, before any trauma manifests itself. Many veterans are finding themselves in trouble with local law enforcement after making poor decisions that may have been the result of issues like PTSD. Vet Courts work to offer veterans the help they need while providing them a path to avoid the pitfalls that keep them in the criminal justice system or on the streets.

Most veterans will be eligible for these treatment courts, unless their crimes involve capitol offenses or sexual assault. While this program has stricter requirements than the typical courts, many of these Vet Courts offer probation in place of imprisonment and the potential to have charges reduced or dropped if veterans complete the programs designated for them.

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