What Can a Military Defense Lawyer Help me With?
By Space Coast Daily // January 14, 2022
When you sign up to serve your country in any of the various service branches, you are told that, legally speaking, you are transferring from the nation’s civilian code of laws into the jurisdiction of the military code of justice. Indeed, at some point in the enlistment process, you would have been asked to initial and sign various documents acknowledging this fact.
That being said however, during the excitement of the enlistment process, as you contemplate your new life in the United States military, paying close attention to these details probably seems an unlikely outcome in your future military career. Unfortunately, whether from poor decisions making skills, or unforeseen events, the time might occur that will require you to pay far closer attention to these legalistic issues.
For members of the military in need of legal assistance, you may be wondering what can a military defense lawyer help you with when it comes to defending your freedom and career in the military, it turns out that a military defense lawyer can do quite a bit should you find yourself on the wrong side of the military legal system.
Obscure to many people, let’s first look at the intricacies of the military legal system before exploring your lawyer’s role in defending you in military court.
What is the Uniform Code of Military Justice?
Simply put, the armed forces have always held sway when it comes to disciplining their errant members according to rules set down by the Second Continental Congress in 1775. The role of continues civilian oversight of the military was further enshrined in the new federal constitution of 1787, which mandated congressional control over rules governing the military services.
Early congresses drew up more than 100 laws governing conduct of service members; albeit, each service, the army and the navy departments offered up its own rules and procedures governing military trial and punishment. This all changed in 1950.
In that year, then-president Harry S. Truman signed into law The Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ, which provided that legal framework which would serve to govern the actions of all members of the United States military. Covering an array of legal topics, the UCMJ addresses such issues as the arrest and confinement of the accused, evidentiary rules at trial, and covers the process of military appeals.
Changes to the UCMJ since 1950, there were substantive changes in 1968 and 1985, were generally enacted to keep pace with civilian legal doctrine and emerging evidentiary technologies. A military defense lawyer is ideally poised to explain these changes, as well as exploit any rules that might benefit their client.
Just as federal civilian courts must adhere to a strict code of evidentiary procedure, so too must the military judicial authorities adhere to the armed services version of evidentiary compliance. Towards that end, each of the services field an alphabetical array of agencies to investigate crimes within their individual branches such as CID, NCIS, AFOSI, CGIS, as well as the Inspector General and various command investigations.
Regardless of the branch or the alphabetical arrangement of the agency however, each of these agencies must conform to the dictates of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Serious Concerns for Accused Service Members
In civilian life, legal problems tend to be divided between misdemeanor charges and more serious felony accusations. Whereas conviction of the former might lead to monetary fines or community service, conviction for the latter, or felony charge, can have severe impact on your life including significant prison time and loss of civil liberties as a condition of your sentence.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice however, the rules make no allowances for misdemeanor charges. Rather than utilizing the monikers misdemeanor or felony to designate the severity of a case, the military uses a special court martial charge, or a general court martial. Conviction in either scenereo is tantamount to a federal criminal conviction.
Protecting your freedom, as well as your status in the military, are of paramount concern when it comes to defending yourself against either charge in a military tribunal, which is why you will want to ensure that you have competent legal counsel by your side through each step in the process.
While not all disciplinary action involved jail time, for military personal subject to lesser penalties, such as letters of admonition or demotion, can have a severely harmful effect of the service person’s career. Such action might lead to denial of promotion, loss of security clearances, or a raft of other administrative penalties that when taken together can spell the end of your military career.
Just as in a civilian courtroom, having a legal advocate fighting for you in a military tribunal setting is just as important.
How Can a Military Defense Attorney Help?
In addition to the aforementioned court martial proceedings, your military defense attorney can assist in a myriad of legal situations to include:
■ Military discharge
■ Letters of admonition
■ Military discipline
■ Non-judicial punishment
■ Letter of reprimand
■ Separation from service
■ Medical board issues
■ Evaluation report appeals
Negative results in any of these circumstances can have dire consequences to your active military career and subsequent civilian life. When dealing with such important considerations, you want to make sure that you have all the resources necessary to help defend against any adverse military justice actions.
The Court Martial Procedure
If you’ve been court-martialed, you will undoubtedly have an array of questions regarding what to expect during the proceedings. Your military defense attorney will keep you apprised of all factors related to your case, but let us take the time know for an overview of what you are likely to expect if the military prefers charges against you in court martial proceedings.
When you enter into a court-martial proceeding, you are entering into a 7-step process that begins with an official investigation and preferral of charges, and can continue to the court-martial appeal process should the process result in a conviction.
■ Step 1—Investigation and Preferral of Court Martial Charges
■ Step 2—Article 32 Hearing
■ Step 3—Referal of Charges for Court Martial
■ Step 4—Court Martial Procedure
■ Step 5—Sentences Following Conviction
■ Step 6—Court Martial Clemency
■ Step 7—Court Martial Appeal
These seven steps comprise the legal recourse that service members can expect to experience should they enter into court martial proceedings. Of special note, the Article 32 hearing serves as the military counterpart to the civilian Grand Jury. The purpose of the Article 32 hearing is to serve as a probably cause hearing to determine whether the case should proceed. Not used in special case court martial proceedings, the hearing is mandated for those facing a general court martial action.
Unlike the civilian court system, sentencing is immediate in court martial convictions. Additionally, following sentencing, the service member can request clemency, which is rarely awarded, or an appeal that your military defense lawyer will immediately apply for in the wake of your conviction under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
With so much at stake when it comes to your military career, you will want to ensure that you j=have someone fighting for you throughout this process.
Choosing the Legal Representation That You Can Trust
If you are looking at legal action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, you are looking at some serious repercussions should the verdict go against you during the resultant court martial. As such, when you are seeking out legal counsel to defend you against these charges, you will want to find an attorney that is not only adept at the practice of criminal law, but you will want a legal representative that is fully versed in the military justice system.
As mentioned, service members are subject to a completely different set of legal rules upon entering military service, so find a lawyer that understands this aspect of the law.
Here at the Military Defense Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens PC, our legal team has more than six decades of combined legal experience related to the military justice system. As such, you can enter the court martial proceedings knowing that you have a crack team of experienced litigators sitting in your corner to defend your case.
When fighting any legal case, we question and probe every aspect of the government’s case in an attempt to get the best possible outcome for our clients.
If you are in the military and looking at any range of adverse military justice, we encourage you to reach out to our Florida-based team for immediate answers and help. While we are based is in the Sunshine State, our reach is global and will travel wherever we may need to go to help defend our client.
When caught in legal proceedings it is easy to lose sight of the horizon as you feel you are being engulfed by events. This is natural. Here at the Military Defense Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens PC, we are there to make sure that you don’t get completely engulfed, and you receive the legal representation that you deserve and are entitled to receive.