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 Megan’s Law charges. 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 Veteran’s Court. The Lancaster County Veterans Court has two possible tracks:
- predisposition / ARD, or
- post sentence / probation violation
For participants whose cases are either predisposition or ARD, 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 will seek to expunge the pertinent charges as previously agreed, subject to Court approval.
For participants who are post‐sentence / probation violation, successful completion of Veterans Court 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 three phases of engagement, with no minimum or maximum required time commitment; the content and duration of Veterans Court will be determined on an individual basis.
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 part of the Court’s team and provide advice, personal experiences, recommendations and guidance to veterans involved with the legal system. While in court, a Mentor will be assigned to a veteran participant (offender) and discusses any ongoing problems or issues of interest to the participant. They work to problem‐solve existing issues and bring to the attention of the Court any issues that the Court can assist in resolving. This relationship promotes and fosters, through encouragement, a can do attitude in the participant; the participant becomes motivated to accomplish his or her goals in treatment, feels that he or she is not alone and knows 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 progressive in nature. Sanctions may include: essays, loss of incentives, demotion in phase, fines, curfew restrictions, incarceration, and termination from the Veteran’s 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 incentives as well. These incentives will be determined by the Veteran’s Court Team and specific rewards will depend on available resources.