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Program Helps Veterans Facing Legal Trouble

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MCKINNEY (CBSDFW.COM) - Many veterans have trouble adjusting to civilian life when their tours of duty are complete. But there is a special program which aims to help veterans who find themselves in trouble with the law.

Leevell Crayton served in the Navy for 20 years, spending time in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coming home to civilian life was an adjustment. “Dealing with anxiety, paranoia, sleeping all the time,” he explained. Crayton suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The loving father has been married for more than 20 years, but was arrested last year for domestic violence. Doctors believe that his PTSD played a role.

But Crayton is not alone. “We’re seeing an increase, as those veterans are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, in criminal activity due to mental health related issues during their service,” said Melissa Kale with North Texas Veterans Affairs.

Crayton was given a second chance through a program called Veterans Court. It is an extensive form of probation that uses a team approach to treat the veterans with underlying conditions. Commissioners in Collin County voted to create the special court to help veterans in need. “We want them to have the ability to be able to get treatment for that,” Judge John Roach Jr. said, “and try and do everything we can to ensure they don’t have a bad civilian record when they have such a great military record.”

Crayton said that the program has given him a second chance, and the confidence of knowing that there are people behind him who care.

Although the newly formed court caters to veterans, prosecutors have made it clear that certain offenses will not qualify for the program. “Any sort of violence offenses, no matter what the veteran has done for our country, we’re not going to allow a violent offender in the system,” explained Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis.

A treatment court for veterans already exists in Dallas County and Tarrant County.

If a veteran successfully completes the program, their criminal charge can be dismissed and expunged from their record.

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