Veteran's Court opens in northeast Indiana

(file photo courtesy Pixabay)
Andrew Maciejewski

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (Herald-Press) - A new alternative is available in northern Indiana for veterans accused of substance abuse-related crimes, and organizers say it has a higher success rate than the regular path.

Former Circuit County Judge Jamie Groves said while traditional courts are happy to see a 25 percent success rate in reduced recidivism and drug use, area Veteran’s Court programs see anywhere between a 75 to 80 percent success rate. He attributes the success to the structure of the court.

"People who’ve served in the military… they’re used to structure in their lives,” Groves said. "They’re used to serving something bigger than themselves. There’s a certain honor in it that this program specifically is made to address. It’s almost like you’re giving them back that structure that they had when they were in the military."

Huntington County veterans who are actively serving or were honorably discharged are eligible to take part in the Veterans Court program, no matter what service, including the Coast Guard and National Guard.

Eligible veterans will be sent to Whitley County’s program, since Whitley County Superior Court Judge Doug Fahl oversees the program and has a military background. Groves said Fahl has a rank of Major, which helps provide veterans with a situation they’re familiar with.

“He talks to them as a major and not just as a judge,” Groves said. “They hear that, and I think it resonates with them.”

The program is not available for all criminal charges, according to Groves, like violent felonies or crimes against children, but he said that most property crimes, thefts, impaired driving and some felonies could possibly be reduced or kept off veteran’s records with successful completion of the 12-to-18-month-long program.

“It’s a harder program than you’re average person going through court, but the benefits could include as much as a dismissal of the crime, a reduction of the crime from a felony to a misdemeanor or the court could withhold judgment altogether on the came, even if there’s a plea of guilty entered,” Groves said.

To get into the program, veterans can ask the judge in court, tell their attorney or even an arresting officer that they would like to be a part of the program, and family members can even nominate them for the program.

Get more on this story from our partners at the Huntington Herald-Press.

Filed under: