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General Laws

Section 11. A defendant who is determined to be a veteran, on active service or has a history of military service in the armed forces of the United States and who is eligible for diversion or treatment under section 10 may, at arraignment, be afforded a 14-day continuance by the court to seek an assessment by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the department of veterans’ services or another state or federal agency with suitable knowledge and experience of veterans affairs to provide the court with treatment options available to the defendant, including diversion programs, if appropriate. If the defendant has demonstrated symptomatology suggestive of a mental illness, a qualified psychiatrist, clinical psychologist or physician shall, in consultation with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the department of veterans’ services or another federal or state agency, provide a written report to the court to assist in sentencing or diversion. The court may consider the recommendations of any diagnosing or treating licensed mental health professional for the defendant for pre-trial diversion or the imposition of a sentence. Prior to offering a continuance, the court shall inquire into the circumstances of the charge.

If the court offers a 14-day continuance to seek an assessment and a defendant chooses to accept the offer of a continuance, the defendant shall notify the court at arraignment. Upon receipt of such notification, the judge may grant a 14-day continuance. The court, through the probation office or the officer’s official designee, shall direct the defendant to an assessment program, shall inform the program of the action and shall require that the program provide the probation department and court with its findings. A court may grant a defendant who is preliminarily determined not to be eligible for pre-trial diversion a 14-day continuance for assessment. The court shall consider the opinion of the commonwealth on the merits of granting or denying the continuance. A court may grant a continuance sua sponte or upon motion by the defendant.

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