Criminal Defense Attorneys to Have New Tool When Handling Veterans Cases

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As Shad Meshad, President of the National Veterans Foundation has been saying for a long time: "There is a tsunami coming and our police and criminal courts are not equipped to handle the onslaught." Returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan (not unlike those from Vietnam and Desert Storm) are finding themselves dealing with the often-harsh realities and challenges of civilian life. For many, there are issues related to diagnosed and undiagnosed PTSD, TBI and other combat-related issues, including over-medicating. Some of these men and women will become statistics, and they find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system due to charges ranging from drinking and substance abuse to spousal abuse, robbery, and murder. The role played by PTSD or TBI needs to be examined and properly defended in legitimate cases. And attorneys need the best available tools in order to provide the best defense. Up till now, the "best available tools" have been few and far between. The National Veterans Foundation, and organization that has been serving the interest of veterans since the end of the Vietnam War, has funded a multi-year project that has resulted in the Attorney's Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court. It is due for release in June.

New from the National Veterans Foundation: Attorneys Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court

...we are at a unique place in history, where a defense based on PTSD is now viable.

Markku A. Sario, Esq.

The National Veterans Foundation is preparing to launch the Attorney's Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court. This 700+ page publication will offer defense and plaintiff attorneys, judges, expert witnesses, and law schools the contributions of leading experts from the fields of law, medicine and mental health and address issues surrounding PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), TBI (traumatic brain injury), substance abuse, and other combat-related issues. The current release date is planned for June.

As the New York Times has reported: There are about 70,000 veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and that's just from the state of New York. Since 2002, over 2 million men and women have served in Afghanistan and Iraq from all 50 states. One striking fact is that approximately one-third of military personnel have served more than one tour in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nearly 20,000 members of the U.S. Army have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq some five or more times. The military has kept 70,000 service personnel beyond their scheduled discharge date. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs predicts that between 30-40 percent of Iraq veterans will eventually experience PTSD (not including possible TBI or other combat-related issues that go undetected).

Across the U.S., many are struggling with the transition back to civilian life as Vietnam veterans did (nearly a half-century ago), and some are at risk of ending up in the criminal justice system. The criminal court system is not prepared for the potential tsunami that could hit this country, when PTSD and TBI related events occur among these returning veterans. This publication is intended to be one tool for attorneys to have available in assisting with making the defense process more effective.

In an effort to provide much-needed information and direction for attorneys who defend these veterans, the National Veterans Foundation (NVF) has funded a nearly three-year project to bring together outstanding experts, who were willing to give of their time and talent, without compensation, to create a tool that can provide guidance for attorneys. From the moment a lawyer meets a new client to preparing the defense and to dealing with the sentencing phase, this Guide will offer the very first of its kind publication.

From identifying the potential root causes for criminal behavior to preparing the veteran for facing the challenges of the courtroom, the table of contents of the Guide is replete with material that can be utilized by the most experienced courtroom attorney to the novice. Attorneys for the prosecution will find the publication and invaluable guide in understanding the critical nature of their role, as will judges and expert witnesses.

The NVF intends this publication to truly serve the better good -- for all concerned. The Guide is not intended to be a "get out of jail free" card. Should the evidence clearly indicate that the crime requires punishment, the Guide works attorneys through the steps involved in the "sentencing phase" of the trial. And whatever the level of incarceration that might be handed down as part of the sentencing, the Guide provides insight into working for the ultimate goal of the publication -- treatment. Without treatment, the issues the veteran is dealing with will continue. Treatment is the ultimate goal of the Attorney's Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court.

The men and women who have defended this country, under the worst of conditions, in the harshest of environments, deserve the best defense possible, when the invisible injuries they brought home with them, are possible sources for their actions. As Steve Robertson
Director, National Legislative Commission for the American Legion, when addressing the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said: "As a Nation at war, America has a moral, ethical and legal commitment to the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States and their survivors. These current defenders of democracy will eventually join the ranks of their 23.5 million comrades, we refer to as veterans." The National Veterans Foundation want all returning veterans to have, when needed, the best legal representation possible. The Guide will be the NVF's legacy to veterans of all wars.

The recent killing of 17 civilians in Afghanistan and the issues of PTSD and/or TBI have once again become front page topics. Former Army officer, founder and president of the National Veterans Foundation, Floyd 'Shad' Meshad, and co-editor Brock Hunter (an Army veteran and Minneapolis-based defense attorney), along with an array of expert author/contributors of the Attorney's Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court, stand ready to conduct interviews on the substance of the publication. Please use the contact information to arrange an interview.

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Dennis McClellan
National Veterans Foundation
(407) 417-1855
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