Veterans Treatment Court

The Maine Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) is a specialty docket for military veterans whose involvement with the criminal justice system has been fueled by a serious substance use disorder (drugs and/or alcohol) and/or mental health disorders.

The VTC began in 2011 in recognition of the needs of veterans whose substance use disorder and/or mental health disorder has contributed to criminal conduct. The VTC accepts veterans from any era, whether they deployed to a combat theater such as Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, and regardless of discharge status.

The VTC works closely with the U.S. Veterans Administration and Togus VA Medical Center as well as Vet Centers and other VA facilities in Maine. Each participant has a peer mentor and engages in group activities with other veterans in recognition of the unique bonds that they share. Treatment services are accessed at the VA or through private providers.

Participants are admitted to a VTC in after entering into a plea agreement and accepting responsibility for their conduct. Entry into a VTC is voluntary.

Key components of the program

  • Intensive judicial oversight that includes regular status hearings before the presiding judge;
  • Multi-disciplinary treatment team that includes the presiding judge, prosecutor, defense lawyer, a peer mentor, probation officer, case manager, treatment provider, law enforcement officer, and coordinator who have received specialized training;
  • Comprehensive, individualized treatment plans, including medically assisted treatment (MAT), if appropriate;
  • Community supervision;
  • Case management to help the participant with scheduling, housing, and employment;
  • Frequent, random, and observed drug testing;
  • Strict accountability and sanctions for noncompliance;
  • Incentives for compliance and an opportunity to progress to program completion.

Participants who successfully complete the program will receive the successful completion sentence in their plea agreement. Participants who are expelled or withdraw from the program will receive the unsuccessful outcome sentence in their plea agreement.

The length of the program is a minimum of one year with an average of 14-16 months.

Locations & Case Manager Contact

Cumberland County Superior Court
Maine Pretrial Services  
Telephone: (207) 615-2906 or (207) 615-3786

Capital Judicial Center in Augusta
Maine Pretrial Services
Telephone: (207) 485-4315; or (207) 441-0265; or (207) 399-6281

The VTC in Kennebec County may accept cases from all District and Superior Courts statewide. The VTC in Cumberland County accepts cases from Cumberland County only.

Eligibility  

  • U.S. military veteran;
  • Eighteen (18) years of age and older;
  • Serious criminal charges or probation violations;
  • Serious substance use disorder (drugs and/or alcohol) and/or a diagnosed mental health disorder;
  • Significant risk of future criminal conduct without intervention; and
  • Poor prognosis for successful treatment of the substance use disorder and/or diagnosed mental health disorder without supervised intervention.

Location

Generally, participants must reside in Kennebec or Cumberland County. If they do not, participants must have reliable transportation in order to meet frequently with their case manager, treatment service providers, law enforcement, and attend court. If the charges arose in another county, the District Attorney from that county must agree to transfer the case to Kennebec or Cumberland County. A request for transfer should be noted on the Treatment Court Referral Form (CR-234). The referral form may be submitted by anyone, but usually is submitted by the defense lawyer or probation officer.  

Medical marijuana use

The VTCs receive federal funding and must adhere to federal regulations regarding medical marijuana.  Medical marijuana may not be used while participating in the VTC and participants with a medical marijuana card must agree to stop using marijuana or marijuana products during their time in VTC.  

When Defendant or Probationer May Apply

A Treatment Court Referral Form (CR-234) may be submitted at any stage of the criminal case, including:

  • Arraignment;
  • Bail hearing; or
  • Dispositional conference.

A referral will not be considered after a trial and a finding of guilty.

Application Steps

  1. Download, print, and fill out the Treatment Court Referral Form (CR-234) and submit to the clerk’s office where the charges are pending. The clerk’s office can also provide paper copies of the referral form and other treatment court forms.
    Anyone can submit a referral form, including a lawyer, family member, probation officer, law enforcement officer, jail personnel, or the defendant. Questions about completing the referral form should be directed to the case manager for the VTC. See Locations and Case Manager Contact Information.
  2. After the referral form is submitted, the VTC case manager will gather all necessary information to be reviewed by the VTC team.
    The District Attorney's office will verify information on the applicant's pending charge(s) and criminal history.
    The case manager will complete an initial screening, including a referral to a treatment provider for an assessment. The assessment is done at no cost to the applicant.
  3. The VTC team then reviews all required information to determine:
    • If the applicant is legally eligible;
    • If the applicant is considered high-risk and high-need; and
    • Whether services are available to treat the applicant.
  4. If the team recommends admitting the applicant to the VTC, the District Attorney's office contacts the applicant’s lawyer regarding bail conditions and a plea agreement.
    The applicant’s lawyer reviews the plea agreement and other program documents with the applicant. Program documents include:

Before final admission, defense counsel reviews the preliminary treatment plan and program requirements with the applicant. If the applicant confirms his or her interest in proceeding, the applicant appears before the VTC judge with defense counsel for an admission hearing.

Upon admission, the participant signs the plea agreement, bail contract, other program documents, and an Authorization to Release Information Within the MTC Teams (CR-236). This release is required so that information may be shared with VTC team members throughout the course of the defendant’s participation in the VTC.

Entry into a VTC is voluntary. Once entered into a VTC the participant must have permission of the presiding judge to leave the program.  

Meeting with a Lawyer before Final Admission

All eligible participants are required to meet with their lawyer, or, if they are unrepresented, with a court-appointed lawyer, before final admission to the VTC to make sure they understand the potential consequences of waiving certain procedural rights in order to participate in the VTC.

Waiver of Confidentiality Concerning Substance Abuse Diagnosis and Treatment

In addition to waiving certain procedural rights, the defendant must voluntarily and knowingly consent to waive all rights of confidentiality established by federal and state laws associated with substance abuse diagnosis and treatment (42 CFR Part 2) and mental health diagnosis and treatment in order to facilitate judicial supervision and the sharing of information among treatment providers, the VTC team, and the court.

If an Applicant is Not Admitted

Because of the intensive nature of the program, the VTC can serve only a limited number of participants at a time. Not every applicant who may be eligible or want to participate will be admitted.

The court may exclude any applicant:

  • Deemed to present a substantial danger to a victim or to the community;
  • Deemed to present a substantial risk to the integrity of the judicial process; or
  • If there is a lack of services to address the applicant’s needs.

If the team declines to recommend an applicant for admission, a letter of explanation will be provided. The applicant may request reconsideration in writing, including additional relevant information that was not included in the original referral to assist the team in reviewing its prior decision. The request is submitted to the clerk of the specific VTC.