Treatment courts, such as drug courts, or Veterans Courts focusing on soldiers who returned from war suffering from PTSD and other Military Service related ills, are largely viewed as immensely successful. And yet, while Florida has established a few Treatment Courts, many prosecutors (and courts) still stick to a policy of “punish ’em and throw away the key.”
A Florida statute allows for a lesser sentence for mentally ill people who commit crimes, so long as they receive treatment. Under that provision, a trial judge lowered the sentence for a veteran suffering from PTSD to time served, and effective treatment. The State found it necessary to appeal. It argued that the lesser sentence (a “downward departure” in legal jargon) was unauthorized because the defendant could receive PTSD treatment in jail too.
The Florida Supreme Court wisely stepped in. There is no requirement in the statute that the defendant should need a kind of treatment not available through the prison system before the sentencing provision at issue here can be applied. Under the right circumstances, trial judges may lower a sentence in exchange for a commitment to treatment regardless of prison programs.
As we have mentioned before, sentencing is one the most frequent grounds for appeal in criminal cases (along with admissibility of evidence). As one veteran learned, perseverance and a skilled attorney can pay off.