Judges Give Breaks To Veterans Despite Sentencing Guidelines


Many veterans who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq with by post-traumatic stress, drug dependency, and other problems are getting leniency when they run into trouble with the law, reports the New York Times. “More and more courts are noticing and asserting, in a variety of ways, that there seems to be some relevance to military service, or history of wartime service, to our country,” said Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman.

At the federal level, judges are resisting guidelines that focus more on the nature of the crime than on the qualities of the person who committed it. States are establishing special courts to ensure that veterans in court receive the treatment their service entitles them to. While veterans are not believed more likely to be arrested than the rest of the population, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2008 found 229,000 veterans in local jails and state and federal prisons, with 400,000 on probation and 75,000 on parole. Judges have recognized that many of those returning from war carry a heavy burden of damage that might not be physically visible. U.S. District Judge John Kane of Denver gave a defendant probation instead of a prison sentence, saying the soldier “returned from the war, but never really came home.” Advisory federal sentencing guidelines say that “good works” like military service “are not ordinarily relevant” in determining whether to give sentences below the recommended range.

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