Tuesday, March 30, 2010

War Veterans and the Criminal Justice system

With more than 1.8 million Americans havin served in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was only a matter of time before those dedicated service men and women had contact with the criminal justice system. There is no possible way for those in society who did not serve in the armed forces to understand the stress this proud service caused on these soldiers individually.

Unfortunately, many of these same soldiers who proudly served our nation and faced the greatest of adversities in order to survive and keep others safe, have not sought help for themselves once returning home. This has landed some in the criminal courts with charges of assaults, dwi's and other alleged crimes. One of the questions that we need to ask in the criminal justice system is, but for the experiences that this young person saw in combat, would they be here now? But for their service to a nation that called upon these soldiers to serve, would they have engaged in the behavior the government now accuses them of?

As was pointed out in a recent Star Tribune Article, New vets court aims to help scarred soldiers, March 9, 2010 (by Mark Brunswick), "Veterans are a unique group of people, and the combat veteran in particular needs to be addressed." Right now veterans account for roughly 10 percent of people with criminal records. Id.

A soldier who does receive help through private means, or the United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), may very well receive a report that diagnosis them with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This may also be inflamed by, or accompanied with alcohol use to self-medicate and manage anxiety since returning home. A returning soldier may also experience intrusive and distressing daytime thoughts about experiences, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, avoidance of trauma and war related stimuli, emotional and physical reactions to internal re-experiencing of the traumas, sleep disturbance marked by trauma and violent themed nightmares, insomnia, elevated anxiety, anxiety attacks, short term memory loss, emotional numbing, depression, isolation, detachment and survivor's guilt.

A recent RAND Corporation study estimates that nearly 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans -- 3000,00 in all-- are returning with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression; and only slightly more than half have sought treatment. Star Tribune Article, New vets court aims to help scarred soldiers, March 9, 2010 (by Mark Brunswick). Of that group, only half received minimally adequate treatment. Id.

Your attorney needs to understand and convey these unique circumstances to the prosecutor and the Court. Your attorney should also act as a legal counselor to provide guidance on where you can go to seek evaluations and treatment.

If you should find yourself involved in the criminal justice system and would like to discuss your case, contact Patrick Flanagan for a free consultation.


email: patflanagan@patflanagandefense.com


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