Richland County Veterans Court Program

In an effort to better serve the returning veterans with mental health or substance abuse programs, the 5 th Circuit Solicitor's Office created a Veterans Court program beginning in November, 2011. This program operates in both Richland and Kershaw Counties, and also serves the included communities including Columbia and Camden.

This is an involved program, that is most suitable for defendants who face either multiple misdemeanors, or any case prosecuted in General Sessions. Once referred into the program the veteran will report regularly to a case manager and will be required to complete mental health and\substance abuse counseling. This program is in addition to Richland County's other programs that include:

  • Mental Health Court
  • Drug Court
  • Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI)
  • Alcohol Education Program (AEP)
  • Traffic Education Program (TEP)

In South Carolina prosecutors are referred to as solicitors. In other states this is commonly referred to as the district attorney or D.A.

Who is eligible to have their case referred to Veterans Court?

In order to participate, a defendant must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a veteran of the U.S. military
  • Be charged with a non-violent offense
  • Have been arrested in Richland or Kershaw County
  • Maintain eligibility for veterans services benefits
  • Have a diagnosis of a mental health or substance abuse condition

Do you need to hire a lawyer to participate?

In order to participate in Veterans Court a defendant must first be criminally charged, and will be facing the possibility of an active jail or prison sentence. Everyone who has been arrested should retain a lawyer before going to Court. Veterans Court is not automatically offered to e

The Columbia defense attorneys at the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, are familiar with veterans issues are able to assist clients in seeking alternatives to typical criminal prosecution such as the conditional discharge, pre-trial intervention, or Veterans Court program.

What if a veteran has not yet been diagnosed with a mental health issue?

In order to participate in Veterans Court the Solicitor's Office must be presented with evidence of a diagnosed and treatable mental health or substance abuse condition. If we have a client we suspect of qualifying for the program we will associate a forensic psychologist to assist in making the correct diagnoses. Then that opinion will be used as a basis for incorporation into the program.

What is a conditional discharge?

A conditional discharge is a type of sentence that is imposed after someone is convicted of a crime. The court will establish terms or conditions that if met will result in the conviction being automatically reversed or discharged. A discharged conviction will be expunged from an arrest record, meaning it is like the charge never occurred at all.

How is this different than PTI?

PTI, or pre-trial intervention, is a diversion program. In order to participate defendants do not have to plead or be found guilty by a court. Veterans Court requires a guilty plea to begin the process. Additionally if someone enrolls or fails to complete PTI their case is returned to court and they can have a trial. If someone fails to complete Veteran's Court they no longer have a right to a trial but instead can be immediately sentenced to jail or a fine by the Court. PTI is also not appropriate for those who suffer from active addiction issues, making it impossible for them to pass a routine drug test. Veterans Court is designed to support those with addictions, as long as they cooperate with treatment and make an honest effort.

How long does a Veterans Court case take to be resolved?

In order to complete your case you must be enrolled for at least twelve months. Some circumstances may require a longer level of participation.

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