Veterans Get Arrested More Than Civilians; Let Us Help

Veterans Get Arrested More Than Civilians; Let Us HelpThe men and women who bravely serve our country deserve respect, grace, and opportunity when they return, but few, unfortunately, actually get any. Even though people may thank service people in public, the harsh reality is that more and more of our military veterans are being treated like monsters in private. It is no secret that war is a harrowing, traumatic experience, and those who survive it are likely to take some of that trauma home with them, but those veterans need help and compassion — not a conviction and loss of rank.

While many understand that military-related PTSD exists, few really know how to handle it in their loved ones, and strangers are just not that forgiving when that PTSD allegedly leads to a violent incident. This means more and more veterans are finding themselves in trouble with the law for a variety of reasons, from alleged domestic abuse to reckless driving to assault. In fact, one-third of veterans in our country have been arrested at least once versus one-fifth of nonveterans. This could be due to PTSD, brain injuries, substance abuse, and any other trauma brought on by their time in the military, and it is important veterans know this is not their fault, and there is hope.

If you are a Killeen veteran and you’re accused of a crime, you deserve to know the legal options available to you as someone who has served, and you deserve compassionate legal representation from an attorney who cares more about helping you than judging you.

Veteran PTSD is known but still mistreated

Post-traumatic stress disorder — or PTSD — is the most common consequence of serving in the military. While even civilians can develop PTSD, many soldiers and veterans are subject to a particularly more grisly and severe version due to the nature of their jobs. Most people know this, even if they are not veterans or related to one. Knowing it is easy. Actually supporting someone suffering through it, though, can be an entirely different animal. PTSD is not an easy disorder to handle, and it is not always neat or concealable. Symptoms may include any of the following, either alone or in combination:

  • Feeling isolated from those around you
  • Vivid nightmares, flashbacks, and memories of a traumatic event
  • Feeling constantly on guard or irritable
  • Being prone to violent outbursts or fits of rage
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
  • The urge to use substances to self-medicate
  • Avoiding certain places or things
  • Feeling like harming yourself or others

Now, there are therapies and medications out there specifically to help veterans through this painful disorder, but gaining access to them is more difficult for some than others. Those who may suffer from PTSD but don’t have an official diagnosis face being labeled by their symptoms rather than helped to overcome them. But even those who do have an official diagnosis may be misunderstood, especially if one of those violent outbursts happens with a loved one around.

Sometimes, PTSD does indeed lead to a violent event, especially when it’s in combination with other brain trauma and consequences of war. This may lead to veterans being accused of domestic violence, assault, and a myriad of other crimes they just did not intend to commit, and since some PTSD sufferers don’t develop symptoms until later in life, it can be even harder to prove one’s innocence. PTSD is an illness; it needs treatment, not conviction.

Different alternatives to conviction for veterans

Being convicted of any crime while enlisted in the military is a big deal, with big consequences. Unlike civilians, service members are held to a certain, high standard of “morality” and those who are deemed to have broken that standard are severely punished. You could face a dishonorable discharge, a loss of rank, and/or a loss of security clearance if you’re convicted of a crime, and the more serious the crime, the more likely you’ll lose your military career for good.

Those who have been dishonorably discharged don’t have the right to their pension or any other military benefits veterans may rely upon, including covered mental health treatment. Not to mention, those convicted of a violent crime like assault or domestic violence also face years behind bars. That is why choosing an experienced criminal defense attorney with military knowledge is so important; fighting the charges against you is the best way to preserve both your career — and your freedom.

Conviction is not the only option for veterans and active service members. Depending on the details of your case, you may be eligible for different programs meant to help you avoid a conviction. For example, the Veterans Court Treatment Program is how Texas aims to help veterans with PTSD, substance abuse, and other mental health issues. Instead of being convicted, this program helps you work towards rehabilitation. From providing education to therapy and everything in between, it can truly be a saving grace if outright proving your innocence isn’t possible.

First-time DWI offenders may also be eligible for a pre-trial program, where qualified veterans are rehabilitated before a trial on a probationary period. Those who adequately complete the program usually have the charges against them dropped entirely. That being said, those who fail the program must go to trial with a guilty plea in the books. Other than those, civilian rehabilitation and treatment exists for those who have already lost access to military benefits, and they may be viable alternatives to a conviction.

Your attorney can work with you to determine the best course of action.

Killeen Veterans deserve legal representation they can trust

The military is dishonorably discharging people at a record-high rate, much to the detriment of the brave citizens who serve our country and fight for our rights. Per Yale Law School, nearly a third of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from some form of PTSD, and they deserve recognition and help rather than judgment and conviction. In the meantime, though, those accused of any sort of crime should act now to get a criminal defense attorney they can trust. Whether you’re still enlisted, a veteran, or dishonorably discharged, you still have rights and you still deserve the chance to fight for them.

Aside from different treatment programs and conviction relief, your attorney will help build and argue a strong defense on your behalf to prove your innocence. This could mean a wide variety of things, from casting doubt on your accuser to fact-checking and it is certainly not something one should embark upon alone. Here in Killeen, the criminal defense attorneys at Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm have years of experience helping veterans and service members, and we would be honored to help you, too. Serving all of Central Texas, including Waco, Belton, and Harker Heights, and Coryell, McLennan and Bell Counties, we are right where you need us. Call today or use our contact form. This is one battle you are never expected to fight yourself.