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November 11, 2006

Thinking about sentenced troops on Veterans Day

On Veterans Day, I am thinking about all the veterans who, after serving our country in the military in support of our nation's commitment to liberty and freedom, discover that our sentencing laws give little or no credit for their service.  I specifically have in mind the decorated soldiers Patrick Lett (story here) and Victor Rita (story here), both of whom now have their futures in the hands of appellate courts trying to figure out what Booker really means for federal sentencing.

More broadly, I wonder how many thousands of veterans are subject to all the severe collateral consequences that can often follow a conviction.  For example, I wonder how many veterans are unable to vote because they are disenfranchised by state law or how many veterans cannot live where they want because of residency restrictions or how many can no longer purchase a firearm because of a prior felony.

Some related posts:

November 11, 2006 at 09:00 AM | Permalink


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Why should one expect that, upon leaving the military, one has greater license than other citizens to commit crimes?

Under this logic, firefighters, police officers, and
perhaps government officials should all feel some greater entitlement than the rest of us regarding the law.

In Lett's case, I think his military service is part of a broader argument that he isn't the sort of person the drug laws seek to get off of the streets--he was just seeking profitable work and got caught in a bad situation and has a lower likelihood of recidivism, as opposed to being a longtime drug dealer who lacks respect for the law and who would probably return to dealing drugs as soon as he got out.

I can accept that argument, but not the argument that Lett's military service entitles him to a free pass when he's caught dealing drugs. I think it's a bit of a mockery of the notion that no one is above the law to argue that the people who have somehow served the country should get off, which is why I wonder if the real concern isn't just the length of drug sentences generally.

Although the sentencing laws give little or no credit for military service, veterans receive credit for it in other areas. They get benefits from the veterans' administration, preference over others when they apply for civilian employment in the federal government, and lotsa respect generally. What they do not get is a license to deal drugs, or "get out of jail free card" when they are caught committing crimes. Whatever tragedy comes from subjecting veterans to the consequences of the criminal laws is, I submit, equally tragic for non-veterans...

Finally, why is it tragic that military veterans who commit felonies can't carry firearms? Of all of the felons out there, I'd imagine that people who have been trained to use firearms effectively are the last ones I'd want to be allowed to carry them around.

My father's a veteran, and I have plenty of respect for those who put their lives on the line for our country. But, my father also has a greater respect for the law than anyone else I know, and I don't think he'd be a big fan of your arguments.

Posted by: | Nov 11, 2006 11:48:01 AM

I disagree with the previous post. Sounds like some person stating theories about veterans who is not a veteran and therefore feels free to say treat 'em just like everyone else.

The truth is that many veterans put their life on the line for their country. Some endured pain and suffering that no human being should have to endure. To risk life and limb for country deserves a special consideration in sentencing.

Most people are sensitive enough to relize that a veteran is a special category that deserves special consideration in sentencing.

Juror's, judges, police officers, and every day folk recognize the sacrifices that veteran's have made for this country and Memorial day (May 28th) is a special day of remembrance.

Attitudes expressing disrespect toward veteran's this close to Memorial day are inappropriate.

The emotions that one feels for the veterans both living and dead are powerful and veterans deserve our respect and our thanks.

The freedom's we enjoy in this country are in party due to the bloody sacrifices of other people.

Posted by: Glen R. Graham, Attorney, Tulsa, OK - email: [email protected] | May 24, 2007 3:56:08 PM

Please correct my mispellings. Thanks. Glen

Posted by: Glen R. Graham, Attorney, Tulsa, OK - email: [email protected] | May 24, 2007 7:16:49 PM

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In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB