final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Petition for writ of mandamus to the Circuit Court for the
Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Ted S. Booras,
Judge; L.T. Case No. 2017CF002660MB.
J. Kroll of Dutko & Kroll, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for
B. Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Jonathan P.
Picard, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for
defendant petitions for a writ of mandamus, or in the
alternative a writ of certiorari, to compel his admission
into veterans' court. The defendant argues that because
he satisfies the criteria for eligibility into veterans'
court as stated in section 948.08(7), Florida Statutes
(2018), he is entitled to admission into veterans' court.
The veterans' court judge rejected the defendant's
interpretation of section 948.08(7), and exercised its
discretion to deny the defendant's admission into
matter of first impression, based on our interpretation of
section 948.08(7)'s plain language, we hold that a
defendant who satisfies section 948.08(7)'s criteria is
"eligible" for, but not entitled to, admission into
veterans' court. Therefore, we deny the defendant's
petition. We present this opinion in five parts:
1. The defendant's motion to transfer;
2. The parties' arguments in the circuit court;
3. The veterans' court judge's denial of the
4. The parties' arguments on this petition; and
5. Our review.
The Defendant's Motion to Transfer
state charged the defendant with twenty-six counts of patient
brokering, a third-degree felony, for allegedly paying
kickbacks to sober home owners who referred residents to the
defendant's substance abuse treatment facility. According
to the sentencing guidelines, if the defendant is adjudicated
guilty on all charges, he faces a minimum of thirty-six
months in prison, and if the maximum five-year sentence is
imposed on each charge consecutively, he faces a maximum of
130 years in prison.
defendant's case initially was assigned to a felony
criminal division. However, fifteen months after being
charged, the defendant filed a motion to transfer his case to
veterans' court pursuant to section 948.08(7), Florida
948.08(7) provides, in pertinent part:
(a) Notwithstanding any provision of this section, a person
who is charged with a felony, other than a felony listed in
s. 948.06(8)(c), and identified as a veteran, as
defined in s. 1.01, including a veteran who is
discharged or released under a general discharge, or
servicemember, as defined in s. 250.01, who suffers
from a military service-related mental illness, traumatic
brain injury, substance abuse disorder, or psychological
problem, is eligible for voluntary admission into a
pretrial veterans' treatment intervention program
approved by the chief judge of the circuit, upon motion
of either party or the court's own motion, except:
1. If a defendant was previously offered admission to a
pretrial veterans' treatment intervention program at any
time before trial and the defendant rejected that offer on
the record, the court may deny the defendant's admission
to such a program.
2. If a defendant previously entered a court-ordered
veterans' treatment program, the court may deny the
defendant's admission into the pretrial veterans'
. . . .
(c) At the end of the pretrial intervention period, the court
shall consider the recommendation of the treatment program
and the recommendation of the state attorney as to
disposition of the pending charges. The court shall
determine, by written finding, whether the defendant has
successfully completed the pretrial intervention program. If
the court finds that the defendant has not successfully
completed the pretrial intervention program, the court may
order the person to continue in education and treatment,
which may include treatment programs offered by licensed
service providers or jail-based treatment programs, or order
that the charges revert to normal channels for prosecution.
The court shall dismiss the charges upon a finding that
the defendant has successfully completed the pretrial
§ 948.08(7), Fla. Stat. (2018) (emphasis added).
defendant's motion and a later memorandum alleged he was
eligible for voluntary admission into veterans' court
because: he was not charged with a felony listed in
section 948.06(8)(c); he is a veteran receiving
service-related psychological therapy; he had not been
previously offered admission to a pretrial veterans'
treatment intervention program; and he had not previously
entered a court-ordered veterans' treatment program. The
defendant further alleged he had not become aware of the
veterans' court program until he filed his motion to
The Parties' Arguments in the Circuit Court
state and the defendant appeared for a hearing before the
criminal division judge. The state notified the criminal
division judge that the state would agree to having the
veterans' court judge determine whether to admit the
defendant into veterans' court. However, the state
mentioned that the veterans' court judge had "never
accepted anybody over the state's objection in ten
years." Defense counsel responded, "[M]y review of
[section 948.08(7)] seems to suggest that as long as the
veteran meets the criteria, he's eligible for the drug
court, that it's . . . not subject to the state's
review." The criminal division judge agreed to have the
veterans' court judge determine whether to admit the
defendant into veterans' court.
the parties appeared before the veterans' court judge,
the defendant filed a memorandum of law in support of his
motion to transfer. The defendant's memorandum argued
that as long as he met section 948.08(7)'s eligibility
requirements, neither the state's objection nor the
state's lack of consent could prevent his admission into
state filed a written objection. The state argued section
948.08(7) does not require that an "eligible"
defendant be admitted into veterans' court. Instead, the
state argued, admission into the Fifteenth Circuit's
veterans' court is determined by the terms set forth in
the Fifteenth Circuit Administrative Order 4.905-11/10,
including the order's incorporated program manual.
According to the state, the manual contains the following
• "The Judge will form a partnership with the VA,
State Attorney, Public Defender, Probation, law enforcement
and the treatment team, which allows collaboration in sharing