Veterans Court

Lancaster County’s Veterans Court is a treatment court based on proven national research and program models of Drug Courts, as well as successfully implemented Veterans Courts in jurisdictions nationwide. This provides the participant an opportunity to pursue appropriate treatment, while productively addressing associated legal problems.

The Lancaster County Veterans Court is open to any current or former member of any branch of the military, including the Reserves and National Guard. Referrals will be accepted after criminal charges have been filed and the case has been forwarded to the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas for further disposition.  Any Felony or Misdemeanor charge will be considered, with the exception of homicide or registerable sex offenses.  Referrals will also be accepted for criminal defendants who are before the Court of Common Pleas for alleged violations of existing probation/parole sentences, or as a condition of an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD).

Participation in Veterans Court is voluntary. Informed consent will be obtained for evaluation and consideration by the Court Team and again at the point of acceptance into Veterans Court.  

The Lancaster County Veterans Court is a post-plea/pre-sentence Court which has three possible tracks: 1) diversion 2) modified, and 3) non-diversion.

For participants whose cases are on the diversionary track, sentencing will be deferred pending completion of the Veterans Court program.  Upon successful completion of the Veterans Court program, including payments of fines, costs and restitution, the participant’s charges may be reduced, dismissed, or the District Attorney’s Office may agree to expunge the pertinent charges as previously agreed, subject to Court approval.

For participants whose cases are on the modified track, sentencing will be deferred pending completion of the Veterans Court program.  They will plead guilty to a minimum of two specific offenses, one more serious than the other.  Upon successful completion of the Veterans Court program, including payments of fines, costs, and restitution, the more serious charge will be dismissed.  

For participants whose cases are on the non-diversionary track, successful completion of Veterans Court program, including payments of fines, costs, and restitution, may result in the reduction or termination of any remaining supervision; however these records cannot be expunged. 

Once accepted, program participants can initially expect weekly contact with the Veterans Court Judge, and frequent contact from their probation officer, treatment providers, Veterans Justice Outreach worker, and the Veterans Court Team. Participants will proceed through four phases of engagement.
  
Accepted participants will be assigned a Veteran Mentor.  Veteran Mentors are veterans of the armed services who volunteer their time to assist participants in the Court. Veteran Mentors are not part of the Veterans Court team, but rather are a resource designed to provide advice, personal experiences, recommendations and guidance to veterans involved with the legal system. A Mentor will be assigned to each veteran participant (offender).  This unique relationship promotes and fosters, through encouragement, a “can do” attitude in the participant; the participants become motivated to accomplish their goals in treatment, to feel that they are not alone, and to know that the Mentor and the Court are there for them.

Accepted participants will also be expected to participate in and complete numerous pro-social, treatment-oriented activities based on an individualized treatment plan. Typically, these may include but are not limited to: meetings with Veteran Mentors, AA/NA Meetings (or approved alternatives), group and individual therapy, medication management/psychiatrist appointments, regular appointment with a Veterans Justice Outreach worker, weekly court appearances, community service, probation appointments, and random drug testing. As each participant requires a different level of intervention based on need and progress, the participants’ specific needs may require the participant to be involved in other related activities. 

A participant can expect to receive a sanction if they violate the Veterans Court Program rules or fail to achieve certain Phase requirements. Typical violations that may be sanctioned include: missed appointments, failed or adulterated drug tests, new arrests/charges and lack of participation in treatment. Sanctions will be imposed relative to the violation, and will be progressive in nature. Sanctions may include: essays, loss of privileges, phase demotion, additional fines, curfew restrictions, incarceration, and termination from the Veterans Court Program. The Veterans Court Team reserves the right to impose these and/or other sanctions appropriate to each particular participant and violation.

In turn, if the participant maintains purposeful and positive participation in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas Veterans Court, the participant may receive appropriate recognition as well. The method of recognition will be determined by the Veterans Court Team and specific rewards will depend on available resources.