In the case of the veteran, the question of pressing charges would be settled after a settling a few other issues at first. Foremost, it would remain to be seen if the items he has shoplifted are under the price of 300-500 dollars. If so, the charges may be filed under a misdemeanor. In case of a theft of more than 500 dollars, the charges may be of grand theft or larceny, both of which are felony crimes. The veteran may receive, under this scenario, a sentence that includes jail or prison time, punitive fines, community service or other penalties (Shoplifting Laws, 2007). The law for shoplifting states that a shoplifting charge against a defendant with a prior shoplifting conviction may be filed as a felony instead of a misdemeanor (Bergman and Berman-Barrett, 2006). Since the veteran’s criminal record shows repeated and extensive criminal acts, his act may also be filed under a felony. The criminal justice system is a filtering process and defendants may be filtered out of the system on various points, viz. arrest, trial, and prosecution (Cole and Smith, 2005). For example, the prosecutor may decide that justice would be better served by sending the suspect to a substance abuse clinic.
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During August 1990 and April 1991, some 750,000 troops participated in an air, sea and ground based war. They were exposed to biological, chemcial and psychological environments. Potential exposure was to fumes and smoke from military operations, oil well, fires, diesel exhaust, toxic paints, pesticides, fire sand, depleted uranium, and multiple immunizations (Lu and Kacew, 2002). Serious psychological disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorders are found in Gulf War survivors and veterans. They include fatigue, shortness of breath, headache, muscle and joint pain, disturbed sleep, difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness (Sadock and Sadock, 2007). If the veteran comes to trial, I would see his record and his service as a soldier in this war and file the charges against the defendant for a misdemeanor and not a larceny or grand theft. Assuming that the veteran has developed his addiction to heroin due to his war-related injury it must also be kept in mind that accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of Gulf War veterans’ illnesses requires a complete medical history of illnesses, allergies, exposures, inoculations, and a great deal more. Gulf War veterans face an uncertain medical future because they lack critical evidence from their military past (US Department of Veteran Affairs, 1997).
The veteran’s condition shows that his rapid change in personality and habits came after his gross changes in life circumstances. In addition to his life circumstances, the veteran is not medically stable and as a study by van der Zanden et al (2006) found that during methadone maintenance treatment, 50% of criminally active, problematic heroin users reported acquisitive crime such as shoplifting. Keeping a humanistic view, it would do well to the system of justice to file charges of misdemeanor but keep the prosecution as humanistic and lenient as possible. The veteran’s sentence should not be treated as a regular misdemeanor case for he is not only under treatment but under the burden of severe life stressors as well.
I have learnt through understanding the breadth of this case that sometimes prosecutors tend to enforce the law as vindictively as they have studied in textbooks. The truth of the matter remains that human life is extremely diverse and a single human behavior may have a long, diverse list of causes. A prosecutor’s job, therefore, is not only to prescribe the laws based on the obvious conditions; rather it is also the inherent question to understand the conditions under which the action took place. Justice is not just about slapping a sentence upon a convict; it is about providing security, reform and freedom to the citizens of the community.
Bergman, P., & Berman-Barrett, S. J. (2006). The criminal law handbook: know your rights, survive the system. Berkeley, CA: Nolo.
Cole, G. F., & Smith, C. E. (2005). Criminal justice in America. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Thomson Learning.
Lu, F. C., & Kacew, S. (2007). Lu’s Basic Toxicology: Fundamentals, Target Organs and Risk Assessment. London: Taylor and Francis.
Sadock, B. J., Kaplan, H. I., & Sadock, V. A. (2007). Kaplan & Sadock’s synopsis of psychiatry: behavioral sciences/clinical psychiatry. Philadelphia: Wolter Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Shoplifting Laws. (2007). Criminal Law. Online Lawyer Source. Web.
van der Zanden, B.P., Dijkgraaf, M. G., Blanken, P., van Ree, J.M., van der Brink, W. (2007). Patterns of acquisitive crime during methadone maintenance treatment among patients eligible for heroin assisted treatment. Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 84, 84-90.
United States. (1997). Status of the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify Gulf War Syndrome: hearing before the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fifth Congress, first session. Washington: U.S. G.P.O.