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Veterans in Massachusetts may have drunk driving charges dropped

A Massachusetts state trooper attended a police social event in May 2018. The Irish American Police Officers Association sponsored its annual award dinner. A Massachusetts State Trooper received the Medal of Valor award for his bravery for his involvement in an armed shootout two years earlier.

He left the dinner, and while driving to a rotary club, State Police received multiple calls reporting an erratic driver in a white SUV. The driver was the Medal of Valor honoree. Another state trooper apprehended him at the rotary location and cited his fellow trooper for possible drunk driving, lane violations and negligent driving.  

Serious penalties exist for driving or operating a vehicle under the influence

State police authorities relieved the state trooper of his current duty at the Division of Investigative Services while he waited for his hearing. As a former marine, the officer qualified as a United States military veteran. The court held the state trooper by law for a 30-day evaluation of his mental condition to assess the veteran's eligibility for the VALOR Act diversion program.

The VALOR Act gave district court judges the option to divert veterans or active-duty service members with no criminal record and whose driving was injury-free to treatment programs, thereby allowing veterans to bypass the criminal justice system (now the BRAVE Act, signed into law in August 2018; see Chapter 218, Sections 33, 34 and 35.) If a veteran receives further impaired driving citations after completing the diversion program, he or she will incur the same criminal justice system charges as civilians.

Veterans must pass a strict screening process for diversion eligibility

The judge diverted the state trooper for treatment under the VALOR Act diversion program; mental health requirements for DUI diversion treatment were not then exhaustively comprehensive.

Under the BRAVE Act, a veteran or service person on active duty requires medical proof of a serious mental illness, a brain injury or addiction to substances due to the stress of combat. The veteran must prove military service conditions directly caused a current medical impairment leading to driving under the influence or operating a vehicle under the influence.

Veterans and active duty service members can fight for their rights

There are two cases where veterans may need help. First, if veterans are unable to establish a link between military service and their current impaired mental condition, they may need help in making a case for the BRAVE Act diversion program. Second, if the veteran receives diversion treatment and avoids district court sentencing, he or she could be subsequently indicted in superior court on the same charge, an allowable action under the BRAVE Act. The veteran could need help in mitigating superior court charges.

Too many veterans are in the United States justice system for DUI or OUI convictions. Those least able to tolerate invasive legal court proceedings are the mentally fragile veterans of war. They fought for their country and now deserve an outstanding criminal defense firm's representation to fight for them.

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