In August of 2018, Governor Charlie Baker signed the BRAVE Act (i.e. An Act Relative to Veterans’ Benefits, Rights, Appreciation, Validation and Enforcement) into law to replace the repealed VALOR Act. The new law enables veterans to avoid criminal prosecution for certain offenses, including drunk driving, but only if they are active duty or have been honorably discharged and diagnosed with a condition such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder connected to their military service.
Overview of How the BRAVE Act Came to Fruition
As mentioned, before the BRAVE Act, the VALOR Act was the law of the land in Massachusetts. The objective of the VALOR Act was to provide an opportunity for a military veteran struggling with alcoholism or substance abuse to access alternative resolutions aside from criminal prosecution. However, as the years went on, many people viewed the VALOR Act as an unfair, “get out of jail free” card for veterans. As a result, the VALOR Act was repealed. Nevertheless, the Massachusetts legislature quickly responded by drafting the BRAVE Act, an omnibus bill featuring an array of military support provisions. One of the most notable benefits in the BRAVE Act is the provision allowing veterans and active duty military members charged with an OUI (i.e. drunk driving) to be deemed eligible for pre-trial diversion, but only if certain qualifications are met.
How To Utilize the Protections Afforded Under the BRAVE Act
If you are a veteran or active duty service member, the steps that need to be taken to utilize the protections afforded under the BRAVE Act for criminal prosecutions include:
- You submit a formal request that the court entertain an evaluation for the BRAVE Act;
- You meet with a specialist from the Veteran Administration (VA);
- After the meeting, the VA will inform the court whether you meet the standards set forth under the BRAVE Act to avoid criminal prosecution;
- If you are protected under the BRAVE Act, you will receive a treatment plan from the court;
- You will commence treatment and adhere to the treatment plan for at least 60 days; and
- If you complete the treatment plan, the court will likely dismiss the criminal charges.
Veteran Ineligible for the Prosecution Protections Under the BRAVE Act
It is important to note that not all veterans are eligible for the above-described protection from prosecution. For example, a veteran is only eligible if the Veterans Administration diagnoses you with a brain injury, substance abuse disorder, or serious mental illness that stems from your military service. Additionally, you cannot have ever been arrested for an OUI in the past, even if that prior arrest never actually led to a conviction.
Are You a Veteran Charged with an OUI in MA? Speak to an Experienced Defense Lawyer Today
If you were accused of drunk driving, your whole life can turn upside down in the blink of an eye. That is why you should make sure to utilize all of the protections available to you under the law, including the provisions of the BRAVE Act. This is why you should retain the services of an attorney with Eden Rafferty. Our Worcester OUI/DUI defense law firm has worked on thousands of cases and achieved results.