State senators pass proposal to create specialized veterans court

CARSON CITY -- The state Senate voted unanimously Wednesday for a plan that would allow for specialized courts for military veterans charged with nonviolent crimes while struggling to readjust to civilian life.

Assembly Bill 187 was approved earlier in the Assembly but must return there for approval of Senate amendments before it can be sent to Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Advocates of AB187, proposed by Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, say it would help vets charged with crimes and who suffer from mental or substance abuse problems stemming from their service.

Under the plan, such veterans could go through a treatment program and, if they complete the program, have their criminal files sealed. In earlier testimony, Buckley said the bill was the least that could be done for vets who risk their lives to protect the nation.

The bill, modeled after a veterans court in Buffalo, N.Y., was backed by veterans organizations but faced initial criticism for creating a justice system specifically for veterans that isn't open to others.

A change to the bill includes a preamble that lists "limited circumstances" for program eligibility. Another amendment would let successful program participants apply immediately to seal court records, instead of going through a three-year wait proposed in the original bill.


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