Portrait of young adult soldier suffering

Veterans and Criminal Justice: Trauma and Substance Abuse

Many veterans suffer from trauma and substance abuse, leading them to become involved with the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, this isn’t a rare occurrence. Studies show that 1 in 3 U.S. veterans have been arrested and put in jail at least once. In total, veterans account for 5% of all inmates in federal prisons.

Those who have experienced military life often struggle with finding their place in society after returning home. In addition to physical disability, veterans often suffer from trauma and mental health concerns such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In some cases, veterans turn to alcohol and drugs to alleviate their pain. Homelessness, suicide, and co-occurring mental disorders are also major concerns.

It can happen in the blink of an eye. Charges like drug possession and DUIs put veterans in prison, especially when they don’t have adequate legal representation. Every veteran deserves to have their full story told before a court of law. It’s possible to receive a lesser sentence with a proper diagnosis and the presence of legal experts.

More than anything, it’s essential to be informed. The following information about veterans and criminal justice may be helpful if a loved one is facing these challenges.

Veterans and Criminal Justice: Trauma and Substance Abuse


The Impact of PTSD in Veterans

In a 2021 survey of veterans who served in the military during 9/11, 75% said they have experienced PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD include nightmares and vivid flashbacks, avoidance, irritability, angry outbursts, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating. Veterans are also at risk of developing other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Consequently, they may face employment struggles, poor relationships and legal troubles. Veterans with PTSD are also 60% more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system compared to those who don’t have PTSD. For this reason, veterans and criminal justice are often intertwined, but this shouldn’t be the case.

Veterans and Illegal Possession

Since over 65% of veterans report dealing with pain on a chronic basis, it’s not shocking that many self-medicate. 20% of veterans with PTSD also struggle with substance abuse, and almost 13% use marijuana. While marijuana is now legal in many states for medical and recreational purposes, the use of other substances leads to severe offenses. However, there are ways in which veterans can receive the support they need. Drug convictions in the state of Maryland come with serious consequences, but with the right assistance, those charges can be reduced or dropped.

Driving Under the Influence

Veterans and criminal justice intersect due to trauma and substance abuse, which lead to other negative outcomes. Veterans struggling with SUD and PTSD are more likely to make risky, life-threatening decisions. They might get behind the wheel while inebriated. They may also drive recklessly, race through stop lights or speed. DUIs and traffic violations are serious offenses that can result in jail time, fines, increased insurance rates and license suspension. Sadly, financial and legal challenges devastate veterans who are already suffering physically and mentally. Veterans need knowledgeable people by their side to navigate these complications. They should receive support and suitable health care, not prison time.

Partner with Atkinson Law. We’ll Take Care of You Like Family.

At Atkinson Law, we listen to all our clients and protect their interests so they can receive a positive legal outcome.  We’ll work with you and give you the best possible recommendation for your future. To learn more about veterans and criminal justice, contact us today by calling (410) 882-9595 or visiting our website.