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Fighting Against Military Criminal Charges

Fighting Against Military Criminal Charges

As soon as an individual joins the military, he is at the mercy of the military. From the moment he signs on, he is held to the military standards. This means following the Uniform Code of Military Justice. If a soldier breaks any of the laws in the code, then he could face military criminal charges. Find out how military charges differ from civilian charges, and what a conviction could mean for you.

What are Military Criminal Charges?

Military criminal charges are any charges that break the criminal code listed in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Although the code contains many laws that are in civilian law, it also has other laws. Only members of the military need to comply with the UCMJ.

Some of the laws in the code apply to incidents like insubordination. If you fail to listen to your senior officer, then you could find yourself facing charges of insubordination. However, the code also includes civilian criminal laws, like assault and theft. While the crimes might be the same, the penalties for the crimes can differ.

If you face military criminal charges for breaking a law that is also a civilian law, then you could be tried twice. For example, drinking and driving breaks the UCMJ. However, it also breaks the civilian DUI law. As a result, you could face both military and civilian charges. Sometimes, you might face charges in only military court. If those charges result in an acquittal, then you could still face charges in a state court. That said, you cannot go to court for the same crime if the law is a federal law. For example, fraud is a federal offense. You would either face charges in a military or federal court. No matter what, you could not face charges in both courts.

The Differences Between Military and Civilian Charges

There are several key differences between military and civilian charges. First, there is the issue of procedure. Military court can be very different from civilian court. Although this might not mean much to you as the defendant, it does mean a lot to your lawyer. If your lawyer has no experience with military court, then he might not be able to properly defend you.

Another major difference is how the court hears your case. When you have military criminal charges, you go to a court-martial. There are several types of court martials. The type that you get depends on your crime. However, in all court martials, a military judge and commissioned officers or enlisted members as the jury hear your case. The number of people on the jury depends on the type of court-martial. In a military court, the accused individual can ask that the judge alone decides his fate. When this occurs, there is no jury.

One of the most drastic differences between military and civilian charges involves the conviction process. In a military court, the jury needs a two-thirds agreement to convict you. If less than that wants a conviction, then you get a “not guilty” verdict. Unlike civilian law, there are no hung juries. The only exception to the two-thirds rule is a death penalty case. If yours is a death penalty case, then the court requires a unanimous verdict.

The sentencing is also different. Instead of giving a sentence for every individual crime, the jury issues one sentence. The two processes are quite different.

Fighting Back

If you fail to fight back against your military criminal charges, then you put your future at risk. In addition to risking your military career, you also risk your life as a civilian. You could face years in prison and a conviction that remains on your record for life. After you serve your sentence, your life won’t be the same. If you try to get a job or a house, then someone could find out about your conviction. You might not be able to find gainful employment or a decent place to live.

Fortunately, there are ways that you can fight your military criminal charges. To do so, you need an experienced lawyer. Finding the right lawyer to represent you is perhaps the most important part of fighting your charges. If you get a lawyer who has no experience in military court, then your chances of a successful case are low. Because military court differs greatly from regular court, you need a lawyer who understands how the system works.

Once you find the right lawyer, your work is done. In court, your lawyer can represent you. Then, he can try to convince the judge and/or jury that you are innocent. In some cases, he might try to convince the judge to lessen your charges. His course of actions depends on the circumstances surrounding your arrest.

Don’t put your future at risk. Instead, contact a lawyer and fight your military criminal charges.