October 18, 2008

Suggested Guide to Help Your Veteran or Soldier Diagnosed With PTSD and Charged With a Crime

Today we have become faced with a growing trend of soldiers and veterans becoming enmeshed in the court systems. In direct conflict with the perception in the media I propose the theory that our veterans and soldiers face an insufficient mental health care which has a major impact to their lives, families and communities.

The problem is not individualistic but systemic requiring major changes in how we view and treat PTSD. The care of our soldiers and veterans is not being meet and we have just begun to see the aftereffects of the mind shattering results of combat trauma. Untreated PTSD can destroy the lives of many, not only the soldier and veteran. We send our soldiers to war for our freedom and then lock them up when they are broken and of no use anymore.

Below is a suggested guide on how to help your soldier or veteran with PTSD that has been charged with committing a violent crime:

To whom it may concern,

I would suggest that you start researching about PTSD right away. The mind-body connection and interactions, the psychology of PTSD, defensive mechanisms, how the mind responds to trauma, the symptoms of PTSD, how extended combat (such as multiple tours served) effects soldiers and veterans, legal ramifications of criminal behavior and PTSD, the processes of the psychic split from reality and past combat experiences, how anxiety plays an everyday part of our lives, how ordinary stress can lead to higher levels of stress and extreme responses and flashbacks, the nature of flashbacks, the nature of triggers and how they apply to PTSD, and the mental compartmentalization that happens to a PTSD survivor. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but should give you some kind of idea of where you might want to start.

Like it or not, this has consumed your life by no choice of your own, instead of letting that energy overwhelm you and feeling helpless, turn that energy into a useful endeavor and focus it toward finding out as much as possible about PTSD and the effects of combat. You have more passion about this subject than anyone, use this as an opportunity to help your loved one get a fair trial and to force the courts to consider his/her mental illness as a contributing factor in their actions.

Do not take no for an answer from his/her lawyer as to your wanting to get involved in your significant others case, jump into his/her pocket and become the "paralegal" and find them the information that needed for fair consideration of the case. Most lawyers will resist this from you, again do not take no for an answer. I am guessing that the lawyer will probably be a public defender, they are overloaded with cases and cannot really give the appropriate attention that their caseload needs. So, you need to assume that role of "defender" and information detective, this can greatly impact the outcome of the trial.

Consider trying to find a high profile lawyer who will take the case on pro bono, this type of case has become a hot topic in the news and media. A lawyer might take a case for this reason and could benefit the outcome.

Go to the clerks office and get a copy of the court case file, this will help you by becoming familiar with the states perspective on the case and what exactly is being done.

Educate yourself in Miranda rights (If they violated his rights here, this could have a considerable impact on the outcome), federal constitutional law concerning 1st, 4th (emphasis here), 5th, 6th and 8th amendments, along with state constitutional law.

Educate yourself on how the court works, the proceedings, when and where evidence can be brought, the questioning of witnesses and how that process is different in every aspect of the trial.

Educate yourself on case law concerning PTSD and other mental illnesses where a consideration or precedent has been set, this can be used in your case and can greatly influence what happens. Look into your state laws first as they will have the most sway, because state law guides state cases first, then look to federal law to find precedents and findings where PTSD was considered in the sentencing phase. Concentrate on first on the main trial part where the evidence and witnesses will be displayed then on the sentencing. Both of these parts of the overall court proceedings will be the most important part, your soldier or veterans fate will be decided between these two proceedings.

Educate yourself on and things to do:
  • Do not talk with the police or anyone else until you have talked with your lawyer, what you say will be used against you
  • Learn your rights and assert them, you do not have any rights if you do not know your rights
  • get a copy of court case file
  • get a copy of VA file and military file
  • jump in your lawyers pocket
  • try to find a pro bono lawyer
  • individual rights, Miranda and if they were violated
  • legal proceedings, structure of court formalities and rules of law
  • psychology of PTSD
  • case law, state and federal, concentrating on the main trial and sentencing process
  • constitutional law
  • legal responsibilities of the judge, your lawyer and the prosecutor
  • find a support group
  • contact your senator, congressperson
  • contact your local VFW, AMVETS, or veterans associations
I know that this seems like to much, just figure out what is coming next and then concentrate your efforts into that. Take one court proceeding at a time and concentrate on the legalities of that part of the process and use it as a guide to where you need to research and what you should do. The structure of the next proceedings will be your sign post for the direction you need to concentrate on.

You can do this, if you accept that you have been put on this earth for this. You were born to do this, this may be your purpose in life, to be the freedom fighter for all veterans and soldiers who will face this tribulation. You have more vested in this than anyone else, you have more to loose, do not stand by and be a spectator. Get involved and later you will not have the guilt of "I wish I had done something".

A most important issue to face would be finding a support group that you feel safe with and trust. You cannot do this alone, enlist the help of as many people that you can. Contact your congressperson, senator and your local VFW, AMVETS, DAV or American Legion.

This is only a suggestion for what to do. I have compiled this list and information as a suggested guide for personal empowerment.

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