Fighting for Veterans in the Criminal Justice System

Veterans with PTSD deserve the best defense

Veterans Day is a time to honor and thank those who have served in the U.S. military. It is also a time to raise awareness and compassion for the challenges that many face after returning from war zones. One of these challenges is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD affects about 7% of veterans in their lifetime, and about 13% of veterans who use VA health care services. PTSD can cause symptoms such as:

  • Reliving the trauma through nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive thoughts.
  • Avoiding reminders of the trauma, such as places, people, or activities.
  • Feeling constantly on edge, irritable, or angry.
  • Having negative changes in mood and thinking, such as depression, guilt, or loss of interest.

These symptoms can impair a veteran’s ability to function in daily life, work, and relationships. They can also increase the risk of other problems, such as substance abuse, suicide, or criminal behavior.

In fact, research has shown that veterans with PTSD are more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system than veterans without PTSD. Some of the reasons for this may include:

  • Impulsive or aggressive reactions to perceived threats or triggers.
  • Self-medication with alcohol or drugs to cope with PTSD symptoms.
  • Difficulty adjusting to civilian life and following rules or laws.
  • Lack of access to mental health care or other support services.

Experience & Veterans the words are synonymous

At Cafferty & Scheidegger, S.C., we understand the unique challenges and needs of veterans with PTSD who are facing criminal charges. Our team has extensive experience in representing veterans with PTSD and other mental health conditions in the criminal courts. We know how to use PTSD as a basis for various types of criminal defenses, such as:

  • Insanity: We argue that a defendant is unable to understand the nature or consequences of their actions. Or to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the offense due to PTSD.
  • Unconsciousness: We argue a defendant wasn’t aware of their actions or surroundings at the time of an offense due to a PTSD-related dissociative episode or flashback.
  • Self-defense: We argue a defendant acted reasonably to protect themselves or others from an imminent threat of harm, which may have been triggered or perceived by PTSD.
  • Diminished capacity: This defense argues that the defendant’s mental state at the time of the offense, such as PTSD, impaired their ability to form the required intent or mens rea for the crime.

In addition to these defenses, we can also use PTSD as a mitigating factor in sentencing. We work to reduce the severity of the punishment. Or help the court allow for alternative options, such as treatment programs, probation, or diversion. We present evidence of the defendant’s trauma history, diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment needs to the judge, jury, or prosecutor. This all helps to advocate for a fair and compassionate outcome.

Veterans Court

Another way we help vets facing criminal charges is by working with the Second Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court. The Second Judicial Veterans court serves veterans in Racine, Kenosha, and Walworth counties. This program is designed to divert veterans with substance dependency and/or mental illness who are charged with felony or misdemeanor non-violent criminal offenses from the traditional criminal justice system to a specialized court that provides treatment, supervision, and support.

The Treatment Court is an 18-24-month problem-solving court that has two tracks: high risk/high need and low risk/high need. The court promotes sobriety, recovery, and stability for the participants. Participants are required to follow a treatment plan, submit to drug and alcohol testing, and comply with other conditions. The court is funded by Kenosha, Racine, Walworth County, and a Department of Justice Byrne Memorial Justice Grant, and donations.

The Veterans Treatment Court recognizes that military veterans may have experienced psychological and emotional trauma. And that Trauma can contribute to their criminal behavior, and that they deserve special consideration and assistance in the court system. We can help you apply for the Veterans Treatment Court program and advocate for your eligibility and suitability. We also help you complete the program successfully and obtain the benefits of graduating from the program. Such as having your charges dismissed or reduced, or receiving a certificate of completion.

Why choose Cafferty & Scheidegger?

Anyone with PTSD, facing criminal charges deserve a second chance and a better future. We are committed to helping you achieve that goal by providing you with the best legal representation and support possible. We are proud to serve those who have served our country.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, you need a skilled, experienced defense team. We help you navigate the complex and stressful legal process. Contact us today for a free consultation and let us fight for your rights and your future. We are grateful for your service and we are here to serve you.

Visit our website to learn more about our firm, our services, and our team. You can also call or text us anytime at (262) 632-5000. We are located near the courthouse in Racine and Kenosha and there is convenient free parking available.


  • Study: Veterans with PTSD more likely to have justice-system involvement than those without: This article from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs summarizes the findings of a study comparing the odds of criminal justice involvement among veterans with and without PTSD. Finding veterans with PTSD were 60% more likely to have justice-system involvement than veterans without PTSD.
  • PTSD as a Criminal Defense: A Review of Case Law: This article from the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law reviews the case law involving PTSD as a basis for criminal defenses, such as insanity, unconsciousness, self-defense, and diminished capacity. The article examines the scientific reliability, relevance, and admissibility of PTSD testimony in the courts, and the challenges and limitations of using PTSD as a criminal defense.
  • Veterans with PTSD more likely to have justice-system involvement than those without: Boston University discusses the link between PTSD and criminal justice involvement among veterans, and the need for more trauma-informed and veteran-specific services in the criminal justice system. The article also highlights some of the promising programs and initiatives that aim to support justice-involved veterans with PTSD, such as Veterans Treatment Courts and peer mentoring.
  • Promising Strategies to Support Justice-Involved Veterans: The RAND Corporation presents some of the promising strategies and practices that can help prevent and reduce criminal justice involvement among veterans, especially those with PTSD and other mental health conditions. The article also identifies some of the gaps and challenges in the current system, and provides recommendations for improving the coordination and collaboration among the various stakeholders and agencies that serve the justice-involved.
  • The Second Judicial District Court: The mission of the Second Judicial District of Wisconsin is to honor veterans by restoring them to a productive life by providing judicial support, treatment and supervision thereby enhancing public safety.

Why Choose Cafferty


Free Consultation

From our offices in Racine and Kenosha Wisconsin, the criminal defense lawyers at Cafferty & Scheidegger defend the rights of people charged with state and federal criminal offenses throughout Southeastern Wisconsin (Racine, Kenosha, Walworth). If you or a loved one is charged with a crime, contact us today to arrange a free initial consultation with an experienced Racine federal criminal defense attorney right away. For urgent matters, you are welcome to call or text us 24 hours a day at ‪(262) 632-5000.


We Defend You

The attorneys at Cafferty & Scheidegger have excellent knowledge of the state and federal court system throughout Southeastern Wisconsin. They are aggressive trial lawyers that are recognized for integrity and hard work. Our law firm’s strength lies in our exceptional pre-trial investigation and case preparation. We come to the prosecutor’s office prepared with the facts and ready to help you get the best possible outcome for your charges. Our priority is always to keep you out of jail and avoid a conviction on your record, whenever possible.

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Proven Experience

The dedication of the team at Cafferty & Scheidegger to client service and their record of success has earned them listings as Wisconsin Super Lawyer® from 2008 through 2022. In addition, their reputation for high standards has earned them an AV Distinguished rating by Martindale-Hubbell. Cafferty & Scheidegger is backed by more than 28 years of trial skills and courtroom experience.

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