2017 Louisiana Laws
TITLE 13 - Courts and Judicial Procedure
RS 13:5366 - The Veterans Court program
§5366. The Veterans Court program
A. Each district court by rule may designate as a Veterans Court program one or more divisions of the district court to which veterans are assigned and may establish a probation program to be administered by the presiding judge or judges thereof or by an employee designated by the court.
B. Participation in probation programs shall be subject to the following provisions:
(1) The district attorney may propose to the court that an individual defendant be screened for eligibility as a participant in the Veterans Court program if all of the following criteria are satisfied:
(a) The individual is charged with a violation of a statute of this state, either a felony or misdemeanor, and is determined to be a veteran as defined in R.S. 13:5364.
(b) The district attorney has reason to believe that the individual who is charged could benefit by the Veterans Court program.
(c) The district attorney has reason to believe that it is in the best interest of the community and in the interest of justice to provide the defendant with treatment as opposed to incarceration or other sanctions.
(2) Upon receipt of the proposal provided for in Paragraph (1) of this Subsection, the court shall advise the defendant that he may be eligible for enrollment in a court-authorized treatment program through the Veterans Court program.
(3)(a) If the defendant requests to undergo treatment and is accepted into the Veterans Court program, the defendant will be placed under the supervision of the Veterans Court program for the period of not less than twelve months.
(b) During the treatment the defendant may be confined in a treatment facility or, at the discretion of the court, the defendant may be released on a probationary basis for treatment or supervised aftercare in the community.
(c) The court may impose any conditions reasonably related to the complete rehabilitation of the defendant.
(d) The defendant shall be required to participate in any court-ordered alcohol and drug testing program at his own expense, unless the court determines that he is indigent.
(e) If the defendant completes the Veterans Court program, and has successfully completed all other requirements of his court-ordered probation, the conviction may be set aside and the prosecution dismissed in accordance with the provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 893 and 894. A defendant's successful completion of the Veterans Court program and the other requirements of probation may result in his discharge from supervision. If the defendant does not successfully complete the Veterans Court program, the judge may revoke the probation and impose sentence, or the judge may revoke the probation and order the defendant to serve the sentence previously imposed and suspended, or the judge may revoke the probation and order the defendant to be committed to the custody of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections and be required to serve a sentence of not more than six months without diminution of sentence in the intensive incarceration program pursuant to R.S. 15:574.4.4 and 574.5, then to be returned to the regular Veterans Court docket, or the court may impose any sanction provided by Code of Criminal Procedure Article 900, and extend probation and order that the defendant continue treatment for an additional period, or both.
(4) The defendant has the right to be represented by counsel at all stages of a criminal prosecution and in any court hearing relating to the Veterans Court program. The defendant shall be represented by counsel during the negotiations to determine eligibility to participate in the Veterans Court program and shall be represented by counsel at the time of the execution of the probation agreement, and at any hearing to revoke the defendant's probation and discharge him from the program, unless the court finds and the record shows that the defendant has knowingly and intelligently waived his right to counsel.
(5) The defendant must agree to the Veterans Court program. If the defendant elects to undergo treatment and participate in the Veterans Court program, the court shall order an examination of the defendant by one of the court's designated licensed treatment programs. Treatment programs shall possess sufficient experience in working with criminal justice participants with alcohol or drug addictions, mental health problems, or all of these matters, and shall be certified and approved by the state of Louisiana or the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The designated treatment program shall utilize standardized testing and evaluation procedures to determine whether or not the defendant is an appropriate candidate for a treatment program and shall report such findings to the court and the district attorney.
(6) The treatment program examiner or district attorney may request that the defendant provide the following information to the court:
(a) Information regarding prior criminal charges.
(b) Education, work experience, and training.
(c) Family history, including residence in the community.
(d) Medical and mental history, including any psychiatric or psychological treatment or counseling.
(e) Any other information reasonably related to the success of the treatment program.
(7) The designated program shall recommend to the court a preliminary length of stay and level of care for the defendant.
(8) In addition to the report submitted by the examiner, the judge and district attorney shall consider the following factors in determining whether the Veterans Court program would be in the interest of justice and of benefit to the defendant and the community:
(a) The nature of the crime charged and the circumstances surrounding the crime.
(b) Any special characteristics or circumstances of the defendant.
(c) Whether the defendant is a first-time offender, and, if the defendant has previously participated in this or a similar program, the degree of success attained.
(d) Whether there is a probability that the defendant will cooperate with and benefit from probation and treatment through the Veterans Court program.
(e) Whether the available Veterans Court program is appropriate to meet the needs of the defendant.
(f) The impact of the defendant's probation and treatment upon the community.
(g) Recommendations, if any, of the involved law enforcement agency.
(h) Recommendations, if any, of the victim.
(i) Provisions for and the likelihood of obtaining restitution from the defendant over the course of his probation.
(j) Any mitigating circumstances.
(k) Any other circumstances reasonably related to the individual defendant's case.
(9) In order to be eligible for the Veterans Court program, the defendant must satisfy each of the following criteria:
(a) The defendant cannot have a prior felony conviction for an offense defined as a homicide in R.S. 14:29 or as a sex offense in R.S. 15:541, or any pending criminal proceeding alleging commission of an offense defined as a homicide in R.S. 14:29 or as a sex offense in R.S. 15:541.
(b) The crime before the court cannot be a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or any other drug or drugs that resulted in the death of a person.
(c) If the crime before the court is domestic abuse battery as defined in R.S. 14:35.3 or domestic abuse aggravated assault as defined in R.S. 14:37.7, the defendant shall comply with the following additional requirements as conditions of eligibility in the Veterans Court program:
(i) Completion of a court-monitored domestic abuse intervention program as defined by R.S. 14:35.3.
(ii) No ownership or possession of a firearm while under the supervision of the Veterans Court program or court-ordered probation.
(10) Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the defendant may be considered for participation in the Veterans Court program even if the defendant is not otherwise eligible for probation due to the defendant's criminal history.
(11)(a) The judge shall make the final determination of eligibility. If, based on the examiner's report and the recommendations of the district attorney and the defense counsel, the judge determines that the defendant should be enrolled in the Veterans Court program, the court shall accept the defendant's guilty plea, suspend or defer the imposition of sentence, and place the defendant on probation under the terms and conditions of the Veterans Court program. The court also may impose sentence and suspend the execution thereof, placing the defendant on probation under the terms and conditions of the Veterans Court program.
(b) If the judge determines that the defendant is not qualified for enrollment, the judge may state for the record the reasons for that determination.
(c) A Veterans Court program team or staff may petition the court to reject a referral to the Veterans Court program if the Veterans Court program team or staff deems the defendant to be inappropriate for admission to the Veterans Court program. Additionally, a Veterans Court program team or staff may petition the court for immediate discharge of any individual who fails to comply with Veterans Court program rules and treatment expectations or who refuses to constructively engage in the treatment process.
C.(1) In offering a defendant the opportunity to request treatment, the court shall advise the defendant of the following at the time of the guilty plea:
(a) If the defendant is accepted into the Veterans Court program, then the defendant must waive the right to a trial. The defendant must enter a plea of guilty to the charge, with the stipulation that sentencing be deferred or that sentence be imposed, but suspended, and the defendant placed on supervised probation under the usual conditions of probation and under certain special conditions of probation related to the completion of such treatment programs as are ordered by the court. During participation in the program, the defendant will be subject to nonadversarially determined sanctions. All adversarial hearings will occur during probation violation hearings.
(b) The terms of each probation agreement shall be decided by the judge. The defendant must agree to enter the program and sign a probation agreement stating the terms and conditions of his program. The defendant must plead guilty to the charge in order to be eligible for the Veterans Court program.
(2) Any probation agreement entered into pursuant to this Section shall include the following:
(a) The terms of the agreement, which shall provide that if the defendant fulfills the obligations of the agreement, as determined by the court, then the criminal charges may be dismissed and the prosecution set aside in accordance with the provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 893 and 894, or, if the defendant has been sentenced following the plea of guilty, then the successful completion of the Veterans Court program may result in the discharge of the defendant from continued supervision.
(b) A waiver by the defendant of the right to trial by jury under the laws and constitutions of Louisiana and the United States.
(c) The defendant's full name.
(d) The defendant's full name at the time the complaint was filed, if different from the defendant's current name.
(e) The defendant's sex and date of birth.
(f) The crime before the court.
(g) The date the complaint was filed.
(h) The court in which the agreement was filed.
(i) A stipulation of the facts upon which the charge was based, as agreed to by the defendant and the district attorney.
(j) A provision that the defendant may be required to pay a probation supervision fee if ordered by the court.
(k) A provision, in cases where applicable, that the defendant may be required to pay restitution to the victim.
(l) A provision, that once the defendant is receiving treatment as an outpatient or living in a halfway house, he will participate in appropriate job training or schooling or seek gainful employment if ordered by the court.
(m) A copy of the plea agreement.
(3) To the extent of his financial resources, a defendant who is placed under the supervision of the Veterans Court program may be required to pay a portion of or the entire cost of the treatment program to which he is assigned and the cost of any additional supervision that may be required, as determined by the Veterans Court program.
(4) If the probationer does not have the financial resources to pay all the related costs of the probation program:
(a) The court, to the extent practicable, shall arrange for the probationer to be assigned to a treatment program funded by the state or federal government.
(b) The court, with the recommendation of the treatment program, may order the probationer to perform supervised work for the benefit of the community in lieu of paying all or a part of the costs relating to his treatment and supervision. The work must be performed for and under the supervising authority of a parish, municipality, or other political subdivision or agency of the state of Louisiana or a charitable organization that renders service to the community or its residents.
(c) Any and all fees may be waived at the discretion of the court.
D.(1) When appropriate, the imposition or execution of sentence shall be postponed while the defendant is enrolled in the treatment program. As long as the probationer follows the conditions of his agreement, he shall remain on probation. At the conclusion of the period of probation, the district attorney, on advice of the person providing the probationer's treatment and the probation officer, may recommend that the court take one of the following courses of action:
(a) Revoke the probationer's probation and sentence the probationer because he has not successfully completed the treatment and has violated one or more conditions of probation; or, if the probationer has already been sentenced, revoke the probation and remand the probationer to the appropriate custodian for service of that sentence.
(b) Extend the period of probation so that the probationer may continue the program.
(c) Set aside the probationer's conviction and dismiss the prosecution because the probationer has successfully completed all the conditions of his probation and treatment agreement.
(2) The district attorney shall make the final determination on whether to request revocation, extension, or dismissal.
(3)(a) If an individual who has enrolled in a program violates any of the conditions of his probation or his treatment agreement or appears to be performing unsatisfactorily in the assigned program, or if it appears that the probationer is not benefitting from education, treatment, or rehabilitation, the treatment supervisor, probation officer, or the district attorney may move the court for a hearing to determine if the probationer should remain in the program or whether the probation should be revoked and the probationer removed from the program and sentenced or ordered to serve any sentence previously imposed. If at the hearing the moving party can show sufficient proof that the probationer has violated his probation or his treatment agreement and has not shown a willingness to submit to rehabilitation, the probationer may be removed from the program or his treatment agreement may be changed to meet the probationer's specific needs.
(b) If the court finds that the probationer has violated a condition of his probation or a provision of his probation agreement and that the probationer should be removed from the probation program, then the court may revoke the probation and sentence the individual in accordance with his guilty plea or, if the individual has been sentenced and the sentence suspended, order the individual to begin serving the sentence.
(c) If a defendant who has been admitted to the probation program fails to complete the program and is thereafter sentenced to jail time for the offense, he shall be entitled to credit for the time served in any correctional facility in connection with the charge before the court.
(d) At any time and for any appropriate reason, the probationer, his probation officer, the district attorney, or his treatment provider may petition the court to reconsider, suspend, or modify its order for rehabilitation or treatment concerning that probationer.
(e) The burden of proof at all such hearings shall be the burden of proof required to revoke probation as provided by law.
E. The appropriate treatment program shall report the following changes or conditions to the district attorney at any periodic reporting period specified by the court:
(1) The probationer is changed from an inpatient to an outpatient.
(2) The probationer is transferred to another treatment center or program.
(3) The probationer fails to comply with program rules and treatment expectations.
(4) The probationer refuses to engage constructively in the treatment process.
(5) The probationer terminates his participation in the treatment program.
(6) The probationer is rehabilitated or has obtained the maximum benefits of rehabilitation or treatment.
F. Upon successful completion of the Veterans Court program and its terms and conditions, the judge, after receiving the recommendation from the district attorney, may vacate the judgment of conviction and dismiss the criminal proceedings against the probationer or may discharge the defendant from probation in accordance with the provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 893 or 894.
G. Discharge and dismissal under this Chapter, as provided in Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 893 and 894, shall have the same effect as an acquittal, except that the conviction may be considered in order to provide the basis for subsequent prosecution of the party as a multiple offender and shall be considered as an offense for the purposes of any other law or laws relating to cumulation of offenses. Dismissal under this Chapter shall occur only once with respect to any person. Nothing herein shall be construed as a basis for the destruction of records of the arrest and prosecution of the person.
H. Nothing contained in this Chapter shall confer a right or an expectation of a right to treatment for a defendant or offender within the criminal justice system.
I. Each defendant shall contribute to the cost of any treatment received in the Veterans Court program based upon guidelines developed by the Veterans Court program. Any and all fees may be waived at the discretion of the court.
J. Each judicial district that establishes a Veterans Court probation program shall adopt written policies and guidelines for the implementation of a probation program in accordance with this Chapter. The policies and guidelines shall include provisions concerning the following:
(1) How to examine the defendant initially to determine if he is qualified for enrollment.
(2) How to advise the defendant of the program if the court has reason to believe the defendant may suffer from alcohol or drug addiction or mental health problems or illnesses.
(3) What licensed treatment programs are certified by the court.
K. Each Veterans Court program shall develop a method of evaluation so that its effectiveness can be measured. These evaluations shall be compiled annually and transmitted to the judicial administrator of the Supreme Court of Louisiana.
L.(1) Except as otherwise provided for by law, the registration and other records of a treatment facility are confidential and shall not be disclosed to any person not connected with the treatment facility or the Veterans Court program and district attorney without the consent of the patient.
(2) The provisions of Paragraph (1) of this Subsection shall not restrict the use of patients' records for the purpose of research into the cause and treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction and mental health illnesses, provided that such information shall not be published in a way that discloses the patient's name and identifying information.
M. No statement, or any information procured therefrom, with respect to the specific offenses with which the defendant is charged, which is made to any probation officer or program treatment worker subsequent to the granting of probation, shall be admissible in any civil or criminal action or proceeding, except a Veterans Court program probation revocation proceeding.
N. A record of the fact that an individual has participated in a Veterans Court program shall be sent to the office of the attorney general and shall be made available upon request to any district attorney for the purpose of determining if an individual has previously participated in a Veterans Court program.
O.(1) The provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure Article 893(A) and (D) which prohibit the court from suspending or deferring the imposition of sentences for violations of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law or for violations of R.S. 40:966(A), 967(A), 968(A), 969(A), or 970(A) shall not apply to prosecutions in Veterans Court programs as authorized by this Chapter.
(2) The minimum mandatory sentence provided for in R.S. 14:98(D)(1) and (E)(1), which shall otherwise be imposed without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence, may be suspended if the offender is prosecuted in a Veterans Court program pursuant to the provisions of this Chapter.
Acts 2014, No. 716, §1; Acts 2016, No. 230, §1.