Courts & Crime

Texas law sets up system for dealing with crimes by veterans

FORT WORTH — Suppressed images of war and a debilitating shoulder and neck injury while serving in the Army — along with subsequent marital problems — led to his addiction to alcohol and pain medication.

Those demons also led to the unraveling of his life and a mounting criminal record.

Faced with the prospect of spending years in jail or prison, the now-40-year-old Decatur man, who asked to be identified only as Raymond, was given a second chance.

Defense attorney Jim Lane, prosecutors and state District Judge Sharen Wilson took it upon themselves to find creative legal options to help Raymond seek treatment for his combat-related issues.

But now the state recognizes that veterans like Raymond may need help.

Under a new Texas law passed this year and signed by the governor last month, the special effort made by Lane and Wilson to aid Raymond could be available statewide through counties that start veterans court programs.

Similar to drug, mental health and DWI programs — referred to as "problem-solving" courts — the new law allows Texas counties to create veterans court programs to divert nonviolent offenders into counseling and other programs.

The new law, authored by state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and signed by Gov. Rick Perry last month, will allow prosecutors and judges to dismiss misdemeanor and felony cases against veterans if they complete treatment for service-related issues such as brain injuries, mental health issues or PTSD.

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