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PRINTER'S NO. 532
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
HOUSE BILL
No.
541
Session of
2019
INTRODUCED BY BIZZARRO, A. DAVIS, D. MILLER, MURT, KINSEY,
OTTEN, ROTHMAN, LONGIETTI, SAINATO, NEILSON, HILL-EVANS,
MULLERY, SIMMONS, CONKLIN, GOODMAN, ISAACSON, DEASY,
McCLINTON, KORTZ, CALTAGIRONE, SCHWEYER, McNEILL, DeLUCA,
GILLEN, BURGOS, FLYNN, BOBACK, RADER, HOHENSTEIN, T. DAVIS,
IRVIN AND DRISCOLL, FEBRUARY 19, 2019
REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY, FEBRUARY 19, 2019
AN ACT
Amending Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in organization and
jurisdiction of courts of common pleas, providing for
veterans and service member courts.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. Title 42 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated
Statutes is amended by adding a section to read:
§ 918. Veterans and service member courts.
(a) Establishment.--The president judge of each court of
common pleas shall establish, in consultation with the district
attorney of the county, a veterans and service member court for
veterans and service members charged with a misdemeanor or
felony offense other than a crime of violence. The court shall
be established using available funds.
(b) Joint court.--Two or more president judges may jointly
form a veterans and service member court in consultation with
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the district attorney from each county represented by the joint
court.
(c) Disc retion of president judge.--At the discretion of the
president judge, the court shall be either a separate court or
problem-solving court within the court of common pleas.
(d) Local rules.--The court shall adopt local rules for the
administration of the court and its related treatment services.
The local rules must be consistent with this section and the
rules established by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
(e) Existing courts.--If a court of common pleas has an
existing veterans and service member court before the effective
date of this section, the veterans and service member court
shall continue and is not subject to this section.
(f) Eligibility.--A defendant is eligible for participation
in a court if:
(1) the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the charges;
(2) the prosecutor consents to the defendant's
participation; and
(3) the court finds that the defendant:
(i) is a veteran or current member of the United
States Armed Forces, including the reserves, National
Guard or Pennsylvania National Guard; and
(ii) suffers from a brain injury, mental illness or
mental disorder, including post-traumatic stress
disorder, that:
(A) resulted from the defendant's military
service in a combat zone or other similar hazardous
duty area; and
(B) materially affected the defendant's criminal
conduct at issue in the case.
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(g) Exclusion.--A defendant shall be excluded from a court
if any of the following applies:
(1) The crime committed is a crime of violence.
(2) The defendant does not demonstrate a willingness to
participate in a treatment program.
(3) The defendant previously participated in or was
discharged from a veterans and service member court.
(h) Verification.--Proof of matters described in subsections
(f) and (g) may be submitted to the court in which the criminal
case is pending in a form the court determines to be
appropriate, including:
(1) a military service or medical record;
(2) a previous determination of a disability by a
veterans' organization or by the United States Department of
Veterans Affairs;
(3) testimony or an affidavit of other veterans or
service members; and
(4) a prior determination of eligibility for benefits by
a State or county veterans' office.
The court's findings must accompany a docketed case.
(i) Procedure.--The following apply:
(1) The court shall order the defendant to submit to a
mental health and drug and alcohol screening and assessment
through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs or
the department. A report based on the mental health and drug
and alcohol screening and assessment shall be submitted to
the court and shall include treatments and rehabilitative
interventions for the defendant for consideration by the
court or correctional programs. A mental health and drug and
alcohol screening and assessment may not be ordered if the
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court finds that the defendant has undergone a screening and
assessment within the previous 60 days.
(2) The court shall inform the defendant that, if the
defendant fails to meet the conditions of the court,
eligibility to participate in the court shall be revoked and
the defendant shall be sentenced as provided under the law.
(3) The defendant shall execute a written agreement with
the court as to the defendant's participation in the court
and shall agree to the terms and conditions of the court,
including the possibility of sanctions or incarceration for
failing to abide by or comply with the terms of the court.
(4) In addition to any other conditions authorized under
law, the court shall order the defendant to complete the
treatment recommendations. A failure by the defendant to
complete the treatment recommendations may result in the
defendant's being charged with sanctions, removal from the
court and incarceration.
(j) Mental health and substance abuse treatment.--The
following apply:
(1) The court shall collaborate with a network of
substance abuse treatment programs representing a continuum
of graduated substance abuse treatment options commensurate
with the needs of defendants, including programs with the
United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the
Commonwealth, the department and community-based programs.
(2) The court shall collaborate with a network of mental
health treatment programs representing a continuum of
treatment options commensurate with the needs of the
defendant and available resources, including programs with
the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the
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Commonwealth, the department and community-based programs.
(3) The court shall employ additional services or
interventions as it deems necessary on a case-by-case basis.
(k) Violations, termination and discharge.--
(1) The court shall impose reasonable sanctions under
the written agreement executed under subsection (i)(3),
including incarceration or dismissal of the defendant from
the court, if the court finds from the evidence presented,
including a report or proffer of proof, from a court
professional, that the defendant:
(i) is not performing satisfactorily in the assigned
treatment and rehabilitative interventions;
(ii) is not benefiting from education, treatment or
rehabilitation;
(iii) engaged in criminal conduct rendering the
defendant unsuitable for the court; and
(iv) otherwise violated the terms and conditions of
the court or the defendant's sentence or is unable to
participate for any reason.
(2) Upon successful completion of the terms and
conditions of the court, the court shall:
(i) dismiss the original charges against the
defendant; and
(ii) terminate the defendant's sentence or otherwise
discharge the defendant from further proceedings against
the defendant in the original prosecution.
(l) Funding.--The following apply:
(1) A court shall collect from a participant in the
court:
(i) a fee of $1,000; and
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(ii) a testing, counseling and treatment fee in an
amount necessary to cover the costs of testing,
counseling or treatment performed or provided under the
supervision of the court.
(2) At the discretion of the judge administering the
program, a fee collected under this section may be paid on a
periodic basis or a deferred payment schedule.
(3) A fee collected under this subsection may only be
used for a purpose specific to the court.
(m) Definitions.--As used in this section, the following
words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this
subsection unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Court." The veterans and service member court established
under this section.
"Court professional." A prosecutor, defense attorney,
probation officer or treatment provider involved with a program
supervised by the court.
"Crime of violence." An offense under any of the following:
(1) 18 Pa.C.S. § 2502 (relating to murder);
(2) 18 Pa.C.S. § 2701 (relating to simple assault);
(3) 18 Pa.C.S. § 3121 (relating to rape);
(4) 18 Pa.C.S. § 3124.1 (relating to sexual assault);
and
(5) 18 Pa.C.S. § 3701 (relating to robbery).
"Department." The Department of Military and Veterans
Affairs.
"Service member." A person who is currently serving in the
armed forces of the United States on active duty or reserve
status or in the National Guard.
"Veteran." A person who served in the armed forces of the
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United States and was discharged or released from service under
conditions that were not dishonorable.
Section 2. This act shall take effect in 120 days.
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