Walz signs bill amending Veterans Restorative Justice Act

Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday signed a bill that amends the Veterans Restorative Justice Act to allow veterans charged with a crime to find out if they’re eligible for deferred prosecution before a finding of guilt.

The Veterans Restorative Justice Act became law in 2021 and allows veterans to avoid jail time for certain crimes by instead taking steps to treat the underlying trauma related to their service.

It’s already been recognized as a pioneering model for how states can treat veterans facing legal trouble rather than dole out criminal penalties.

The bill that Walz signed on Wednesday lets defendants request an eligibility assessment at any time before entering a guilty plea or going to trial. Veterans are considered eligible if they suffer from a condition as a result of their military service and the offense was committed as a result of that condition.

Some of those conditions include post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, sexual trauma, substance abuse or mental health diagnoses.

The bill, House File 45, passed unanimously in the Legislature.

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