UPDATE: Starting January 1, 2015, all cases pending in County Court Criminal Division "V" are being transferred to Circuit Criminal Division "V." Judge Gregory P. Holder was selected to preside over the new division which will include both misdemeanor and felony cases. Read more about Hillsborough County's Veterans Treatment Court.
Judge Richard Weis has been selected as the judge for the new Misdemeanor Veterans Treatment Court in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL. Beginning on October 1, 2013, certain misdemeanor cases in Hillsborough County will be eligible for the new specialized division. The new court has been designated as the County Criminal Division "V".
The Misdemeanor Veterans Treatment Court will handle certain types of misdemeanor charges pending against veterans who were honorably discharged from the military. Individuals who are deemed eligible will have the option of voluntarily agreeing to enter the program.
The new division will recognize the unique issues facing our veterans including service-related problems such as mental illness or disorders, post-traumatic stress syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and substance abuse.
The program also recognizes the resources available to veterans through the Veterans Administration including Tampa's James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital for evaluations and follow up treatment and counseling.
Misdemeanor offenses that might be eligible for the program include but are not limited to trespass, petit theft, disorderly intoxication, resisting arrest without violence, possession of cannabis, making false 911 calls.
Part of entering the program involves attending hearings and participating in ongoing evaluations and treatment for substance abuse or mental health treatment. The Misdemeanor Veterans Court in Tampa will be similar in some respects to the misdemeanor pretrial intervention program.
The benefit of entering the program is that once all the special conditions are met, the Court will dismiss the charges. On the other hand, if the individual does not successfully complete a condition of the program or has a new arrest, then the case can be sent back to the original division for further prosecution.
Hillsborough County Public Defender Julie Holt supported the changes and has suggested expanding the division to include felony charges as well.
Similar specialized divisions exist for veterans in Broward County, Palm Beach County, and Okaloosa County, FL. Pinellas County has created a specialized division of drug court for veterans. Because of his military experience and leadership Judge Richard Weis was able to made the specialized division a reality for veterans in Hillsborough County.