A new law passed in the Texas legislature will allow for the creation of “diversion courts” for first responders like police, firefighters and paramedics.
These courts would be used in cases where emergency personnel are charged with a crime.
Defendants will be able to argue their involvement or proximate cause of injuries to victims bringing the charges was the result of a mental illness brought on by their work, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to the Washington Post, these courts would also be used in cases of misdemeanor and felony charges; if their case was successfully argued, the person being charged would be able to sidestep criminal prosecution, instead undertaking a separate treatment program.
Additionally, similar courts will be available for veterans.
The law is set to take effect in September, when Texas counties will have the option to set up these separate courts.
While not required to be enacted, legislators created the new court authorities specifically to address law enforcement officers, firefighters, prison guards, county jailers and paramedics with a brain injury, mental illness or mental disorder.
As the Post describes, this defense along with the separate court protections are double-edged sword, as such allowances can reinforce the idea of cops being above the law.
This could further pollute the already-unstable image of law enforcement.
On the other hand, it could give people the help they legitimately need, instead of jailing them.