Each member of our United States Armed Forces joined their branch of service to protect our country and preserve and defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. While in the service, however, you may find your own rights need protection if you are accused of a crime or are subject to a court martial. Though the service will appoint a judge advocate for you within the military, such an attorney is often overworked with a large case load. This advocate also ultimately represents the same service that brought you up on the charges. It is important to have your own attorney who represents your interests and no one else. If you or a family member is facing court martial, you’ll need a qualified criminal defense lawyer contact an experienced lawyer . It is strongly recommended you engage the services of a civilian military lawyer.
Military Law is Different from Civilian Law
Military law is similar to civilian law in many ways. You have a right to counsel with both military and civilian law. You also have the full protections under the Constitution that you are allowed. At the same time, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) has many provisions and crimes that are uniquely the military’s.
Potential Criminal Charges in the Service
There are eleven different categories of military criminals charges. Each carries its own range of penalties and punishments if convicted of that crime. Some of these charges, if you are convicted, carry serious jail time.
1. BAH/Travel Voucher Fraud: Sometimes it is possible to accidentally make a mistake in filling out a voucher and then receiving pay to which you are not entitled. There are two charges in this category. One is the charge of making a False Official Statement and to convict you of that crime, the government must prove that you filled the form out willfully incorrectly with intent to deceive. The other is larceny, for which the government must prove you knowingly received money to which you were not entitled.
2. Rape/Date Rape: Just the accusation of rape has the potential to end your career. The penalties are severe and a vigorous defense is required.
3. Child Porn/Internet Sex: All branches of the military aggressively investigate and prosecute these crimes. Child porn charges include the passing, producing, distributing or selling of child pornography. Soliciting a minor is a crime, whether done on a government computer or not. Conviction on any of these charges leads to some combination of punitive discharge, confinement, federal conviction(s), loss of career and the need to register as a sex offender.
4. AWOL/Desertion: There are three potential crimes in this category: UA, or unauthorized absence; AWOL, or absent without leave; and desertion, AWOL for 30 or more days. A competent civilian military lawyer can present your case and any complicating factors you have, like personal, medical or family problems.
5. Fraternization: Every branch of the military prohibits business as well as personal relationships between enlisted members and officers. This includes: dating, cohabitation and a sexual relationship as well as borrowing or lending money and any other business partnership.
6. Adultery: Adultery is a criminal offensive under the UCMJ. Adultery is charged against a service member who is having a sexual relationship with someone other than that person’s spouse. Being legally separated is not allowed as a defense. It is also charged if you are unmarried but have a sexual relationship with someone who is separated or married. If that someone happens to be in your unit or deployed, the charges are more serious as those are considered aggravating factors.
7. Drugs/Positive UA: If you test positive on a urinary analysis for illegal drugs or refuse to give a sample when asked, you will be arrested. If you are involved in the obtaining, sale, and/or distribution, of illegal substances, you will be vigorously prosecuted. All branches of the military have a zero tolerance drug policy.
8. Assault/ Domestic Violence: These charges are a very serious matter and you are often prejudged as guilt just from the accusation. These allegations must be aggressively defended against, as juries are apt to be clouded by their emotions. A competent civilian military lawyer will guide them to focus on the facts of the evidence presented and not an emotional decision.
9. Non-Judicial Punishment/Article 15/Captain’s Mast: You have a right to legal representation at any of these.
10. Administrative Separation: When you receive written notification of the basis of the separation, you have a right to legal counsel to help prepare your response.
11. Record Corrections: You have a right to representation when going before the Discharge Review Board and the Board of Corrections of Military Records.
For more information on UCMJ issues, read www.militaryfinders.com
Other Situations Where a Military Lawyer is Needed
A civilian military lawyer can assist you with your Military Family, Housing and Employment rights. An attorney is helpful with Military Family Law issues as well.