Amnesty Court aims to help veterans help themselves

Chief Judge Charles Roberts, attorneys, court clerks, and deputies came out on a cool, rainy morning to help veterans get back on the road and regain their independence at Amnesty Court, a feature of the 23rd annual Stand Down Manatee event at the Manatee Fairgrounds on November 6.

One-by-one, veterans sat in a chair at the informal court session and told Judge Roberts, Assistant Public Defender Terry Drake and Assistant State Attorney Cynthia Evers, about their military service and the circumstances that led them to court that morning.

In all, the Court addressed 25 veterans. Based on the veteran’s situation, Judge Roberts had the discretion to reduce, waive or convert an individual’s legal financial obligations to public service work hours to satisfy unpaid fees and fines on closed court cases and unpaid traffic violations.

Last year, the coronavirus pandemic caused organizers to scale down the event to include only a few vendors and Amnesty Court. This year was a different story and participants were provided entertainment (a band, face painting for kids, cornhole stations), a place to get a warm meal, and health screenings.

In Veterans Hall, vendors from the health, social services, and legal sectors handed out information or linked participants to community resources.

Also on site were Manatee County Rural Health’s mobile vision and dental units, as well as the FLOW bus (Florida Licensing on Wheels) from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Particpants complete paperwork and wait for their turn in front of Judge Roberts during a session of Amnesty Court.
Mobile health screening units stand by ready to serve.
Particpants browse for resources from health, social service and legal agencies.
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