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Veterans Criminal Defense – Sentencing Issue

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Veterans are treated like any other defendant in the criminal justice system. Still, the fact a person is currently or did serve in the armed forces matters greatly for plea negotiations. Often, this reality can lead to a more favorable outcome. And, at a minimum, it impacts probation conditions if a plea is required.

Pursuant to Minn. Stat. 609.115, subd. 10, a Court must inquire into whether a defendant is an active armed services member or a veteran. If so, additional inquiry must be made into whether the defendant shall be ordered to complete treatment or programming designed to address the unique needs of veterans.

Specifically, the statute reads:

If the defendant is currently serving in the military or is a veteran and has been diagnosed as having a mental illness by a qualified psychiatrist or clinical psychologist or physician, the court may:

(1) order that the probation officer consult with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, or another agency or person with suitable knowledge or experience, for the purpose of providing the court with information regarding treatment options available to the defendant, including federal, state, and local programming; and

(2) consider the treatment recommendations of any diagnosing or treating mental health professionals together with the treatment options available to the defendant in imposing sentence.

In plain language, this statute is considered a sentencing mitigation statute, meaning it often leads to veteran defendants obtaining a more favorable sentence (i.e. less jail or fine) and probation conditions requiring treatment or programming.

Knowing the Court will make this inquiry at the time of sentencing, any veteran should work with his or her attorney to start this process during the pendency of the criminal case. Taking a proactive approach is always favored by prosecutors during plea negotiations. And, if the right steps are taken by the veteran defendant, a negotiated resolution otherwise unavailable can be obtained leading to an incredibly favorable result.

For instance, Mr. Gempeler negotiated a careless driving for a veteran defendant facing DWI charges on a .15 reading – which is nearly an impossible result for such a high reading. This result was obtained due to the combination of the proactive steps taken by the veteran defendant and the aggressive, yet reasonable, negotiations by Mr. Gempeler.

If you are a veteran facing criminal charges, know that this mitigation statute exists and shall be followed by the Court at the end of the case. But, for strategic reasons, it’d be best to consider a more proactive approach during the case that follows this statute’s requirements. Contact an experienced veterans criminal defense attorney now.



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