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Veterans Treatment Courts: Do Status-Based Problem-Solving Courts Create an Improper Privileged Class of Criminal Defendants?

"Although veterans treatment courts themselves are a recent and developing innovation, veteran status and its intersection with criminal sentencing considerations has an increasingly substantial legal basis to draw on. Prior to the expansion of problem-solving courts to reach veterans, many state-level trial court judges already considered military service-related disorders as potential mitigating factors. More recently, several states have either passed or proposed legislation designating veteran or active military status as a statutory mitigating factor, and current federal sentencing guidelines follow a 2009 Supreme Court decision affirming the proper role of a defendant’s military history in the penalty phase. Given the weight of political and legal decisions supporting veteran status as a mitigating factor in criminal cases, veterans treatment courts might ultimately demonstrate the advantages of treatment as an alternative to incarceration" (p. 310). This paper is divided into five parts. Part I-Introduction. Part II-development of veterans treatment courts; the veterans treatment court model; policy rationale for veterans courts; and controversy. Part III-state statutes in North Carolina, California, Minnesota, and other notable state bills; federal courts' consideration of veteran status-Porter v. McCollum, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, and non-statutory state sentencing practices. Part IV-Analysis: veterans treatment courts are correspond with current criminal sentencing; veterans treatment courts are good public policy; and how veterans treatment courts should proceed in consideration of criticisms. Part V-Conclusion.