House bill could ease sentences for veterans with PTSD

Posted May 18, 2016

— A proposal moving through the House would allow judges to consider a combat veteran's post-traumatic stress disorder as a mitigating factor in criminal sentencing.

House Bill 1104 passed the House Judiciary 1 Committee on Wednesday with unanimous approval.

Under North Carolina's "structured sentencing" law, judges sentencing convicted criminals have a limited range of penalties they can consider. They are allowed to make exceptions only for aggravating factors, which can lead to harsher punishment, or mitigating factors, which can allow more lenient sentencing.

The proposal would add a PTSD diagnosis to the list of mitigating factors if the defendant is a veteran who served in active combat.

The veteran would have to document that he or she served in active combat, has been diagnosed with PTSD and is undergoing professional treatment for the disorder.

The court would not be required to consider that factor in sentencing. The proposal would simply allow consideration if the defense should ask for it and the judge agrees.

Sponsor Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, said Oklahoma is the only other state to have added PTSD to its sentencing statutes for veterans.

Martin said defendants would need to seek certification of their combat service through the state's Office of Military and Veterans Affairs, the same agency that certifies service records for veterans seeking special license plates noting service in Vietnam or other conflicts.

"This is the approach that Oklahoma took, and it seems to work pretty well for license plates," Martin told the committee.

The next likely stop for the legislation is the House floor.


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