If you are a military veteran accused of a criminal charge, there is an option to avoid a conviction available under the Valor Act of 2012, passed by the Mass legislature.
And as of April 2017 in Commonwealth v. Morgan (SJC 12114), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that this applies to 2nd offense OUI charges specifically, and that a CWOF is an option for a 2nd offense, which is not typical for most defendants.
The court also emphasized that this pretrial diversion act is available by judicial discretion, and that a judge may choose to dismiss the charge after completion of the program, even if the prosecution objects.
Via the Boston Globe:
“Imposing an alternative disposition to avoid a criminal conviction furthers these goals,” the court wrote. That approach is consistent with “a growing national recognition that the traditional processes of the criminal justice system fail to adequately support veterans suffering from substance abuse,” the court wrote.
The specific case reviewed by the high court concerned an operating under the influence of drugs charge (heroin) in 2014 of Army Veteran Joel Morgan, who’d served 3 combat tours, and had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. His defense lawyers argued that he should be eligible for the diversion program and have the charges dismissed after completion of the program, under the Valor Act.
This pretrial diversion option should be evaluated before arraignment. So if you were charged with a 1st or second offense OUI, please call us before your arraignment, (which is usually the next business day after your arrest) to maintain all of your legal defense options to avoid conviction.
What is the Valor Act Diversion Program?
The valor act was passed to offer additional legal options in criminal cases to veterans who may have PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or other issues that might cause a veteran to deserve extra consideration in avoiding a criminal conviction. There are an estimated 37,000 Massachusetts veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
A diversion program is an alternative sentencing option that avoids any impact on your CORI status, and prevents a conviction or (a CWOF). By starting a pretrial diversion prior to an arraignment, there is no record of an open criminal charge against you.
If you are a veteran, you are automatically entitled to a 14 day continuance if requested prior to arraignment to provide an opportunity for evaluation for eligibility by the probation department for a pretrial diversion under the valor act.
Please contact us for details to find out if we can help you with this sentencing alternative for veterans, even for 2nd offense OUI charges.