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Veterans Court approved for Smith County

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story courtesy of the Tyler Morning Telegraph
By Adam Russell
Staff Writer

Smith County veterans will get a little help from their friends and supporters through a new court program aimed to help them maneuver through legal issues.

The county commissioners' court approved the creation of a veterans court and related policies Tuesday in court.

A group of Smith County veterans, county officials and community leaders is working together to help former soldiers, many of whom suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, is behind the effort. It is designed to help veterans get the services they need when they find themselves in a courtroom for offenses such as driving while intoxicated, nonpayment of child support, or drug and alcohol-related offenses.

County Judge Joel Baker called the court "an outstanding project." He said it was an accomplishment for all the veterans, judges, officials and veteran support groups who worked to create the court.

"It's definitely needed. This is to honor and respect our veterans and to assist them through the legal process in times where their duty to this country may have contributed to their needs," he said.

County Court at Law No. 2 Judge Randall Rogers told the court, after the vote, "more than 60,000 veterans thank you."

The court is not an entitlement program, and can be used only once. The court would handle both civil and criminal cases, but rape, murder, incest and sexual assault are not eligible offenses, Maj. Gen. John Furlow said.

To be eligible, a defendant must:
• Be a veteran with an honorable discharge on active duty or in the re¬serves;
• Meet Veteran's Administration eligibility criteria if enrolling in VA programming;
• Have a pending eligible misdemeanor or felony offense; and
• Be a legal resident or citizen of the United States or Texas.

Staff Writer Dayna Worchel contributed to this report.

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