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Impact of Criminal Allegations on Enlisted Service Members

by | Apr 17, 2024 | Assault, Drunk Driving, DUI, Federal, General Defense Info

Q: How do criminal allegations impact enlisted service members differently than civilians? A: Enlisted service members face unique challenges when they are accused of a crime. Not only do they have to deal with the civilian legal system, but they also face repercussions under the military justice system. This can lead to a double set of penalties for the same offense, including military discipline, possible discharge, and loss of veterans’ benefits, which significantly compounds the consequences compared to civilians.

Q: What military laws come into play when a service member is accused of a crime? A: The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the body of laws that governs the conduct of the armed forces. When a service member is accused of a crime, both the UCMJ and civilian laws may apply. Key articles include:

  • Article 2, UCMJ: This article specifies that the UCMJ applies to all members of the armed forces, outlining who is subject to military laws.
  • Article 15, UCMJ (Non-judicial Punishment): Allows commanders to impose disciplinary action without a court-martial, which can affect a service member’s career and record.
  • Article 32, UCMJ (Pre-Trial Investigation): Similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian law, this is required before a service member can be referred to a court-martial for serious charges.

Q: Can a service member be tried in both civilian and military court for the same offense? A: Yes, it’s possible for service members to face both civilian and military proceedings for the same conduct under the concept of “dual sovereignty.” This means that actions taken in civilian court do not exempt a service member from military legal actions, which can lead to facing trial and penalties in both systems.

Q: What are some specific penalties that service members might face under military law that civilians wouldn’t? A: Beyond the typical criminal penalties like fines or imprisonment, service members can face:

  • Reduction in rank
  • Forfeiture of pay
  • Dishonorable discharge
  • Loss of military benefits, including retirement benefits
  • Confinement in a military prison

Q: Why is it important to consider the impact of criminal allegations on service members’ careers? A: The implications of criminal allegations can be career-ending for service members. Even minor infractions can lead to severe consequences that affect their professional life, standing in the military community, and future civilian career opportunities. It’s crucial for legal advisers and commanders to weigh these consequences carefully, ensuring justice while not unnecessarily ruining careers.

Q: What should a service member do if accused of a crime? A: It’s vital that they seek both civilian legal counsel experienced in dealing with military personnel and a military defense attorney. Understanding both the civilian and military legal systems is crucial to navigate the potential consequences effectively. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC are prepared to help with the civilian legal matter.  We recommend a specialist for the military legal system.

Q: What are the most common civilian charges against military personnel in Tacoma, WA? In Tacoma, Washington, military personnel can face various civilian criminal charges similar to those faced by civilians, though some charges are more prevalent due to the unique stresses and circumstances of military life. Common criminal charges against military personnel include DUIs, domestic violence, and assault. These offenses often reflect the challenges that service members may encounter, such as adjusting to post-deployment life or dealing with stress and mental health issues like PTSD.