Need a Military Law Lawyer?

If you are on active duty, there are numerous issues that can call for the assistance of an attorney. The most significant situations usually concern charges brought by a command under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Commanders often choose to “prefer” charges against a soldier, sailor, airman or marine and, in certain circumstances, those or other charges are “referred” by a commander for a court martial. Those charges most likely come from of the punitive articles listed in the UCMJ. An attorney can play a vital role in the defense of a case even before charges are preferred by a command.

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Many individuals do not understand that the military has its own laws in place and believe that any form of treatment can be handed out to members-cruel or otherwise-and there is nothing the service member can do except grin and bear it. This is certainly not the case and there are precise laws in place to prevent cruelty and maltreatment.

Any individual, regardless of rank or position, who is charged with cruelty, oppression, or maltreatment of any of his subordinates will find himself in a court martial proceeding.

This law is for the protection of any individual who is compelled to follow the orders of the individual accused of the offence. The treatment doesn't always have to be of a physical nature, but there are standards by which the nature of the offence will be compared. Examples that may come under this section of charges would be improper punishment, assault, and sexual harassment.

Perhaps the misinformed conception of the laws pertaining to this offence came about because of the general mindset of the members of the military. Some may have thought that enduring cruelty and maltreatment was all part of the training. There may have been others that were afraid to step forward for fear of repercussions from fellow members. In any event, that type of attitude has changed over the last several years. Most of the members fully realize the hardships of the training involved but are also aware that cruelty and maltreatment are not condoned or tolerated by military law.

There may also be some misunderstanding as to what sexual harassment consists of. The following are some prime examples of sexual harassment, although the list is not all-inclusive, and of course each case depends on its own circumstances.

  • Influencing
  • Deliberate or offensive comments
  • Offensive gestures that suggest they are of a sexual nature
  • Threats against the career, wages or employment of an individual in return for sexual favors.
Individuals that are found guilty under Article 93 can receive a dishonorable discharge, one year's confinement, and be compelled to forfeit pay and allowances. If it is deemed to be a lesser included offence, then it would come under the jurisdiction of Article 80.

These laws have been put in place to protect every member from the type of treatment outlined here. It is important that all those subject to military rule and regulation understand what their rights are.

Is There Any Protection Under Military Law Against Cruelty and Maltreatment?

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If charges are brought before a court martial panel, the service member faces a daunting task. Having the right attorney representing the service member is critical.

If convicted at court martial, a panel can consider a number of options for punishment. If the panel decides to separate the service member from the armed forces, a service member can receive 1 of 5 possible types of discharge: Honorable, Under Honorable Conditions (often called a “General Discharge”), Under Other than Honorable Conditions, Bad-Conduct Discharge, or Dishonorable Discharge. The last 2 of this list, Bad-Conduct Discharge, or Dishonorable Discharge, can only be given after a conviction at court martial. Whether a service member will retain various benefits, including VA benefits, his/her Montgomery GI bill, or even his/her retirement, hinges greatly on the characterization of discharge.

Another form of discharge is uncharacterized. An uncharacterized “Entry Level Separation” typically is granted in situations when a service member is in his/her first 180 days in the service and is not adjusting well to the military lifestyle.

An alternative to bringing a service member to court martial is bringing the service member before an administrative board. There are many boards in the various service branches. Some are convened to determine whether the service member has committed misconduct sufficient to be separated (essentially fired) from the service branch. Other boards are convened to determine whether an injury is severe enough to prohibit continued service by a service member. Officers who are suspected of misconduct might be brought before a board of officers or a board of inquiry. Experienced representation before administrative boards is critical to a service member’s success or failure.

Reservists often times encounter as many legal issues as their active duty brethren. Many times a reservist receives orders activating the service member to duty. The orders may have been issued erroneously. However, disregarding those orders can create its own set of issues. Alternatively, some reservists find that reporting for active duty may cause a devastating impact on their families and civilian lives. Consulting with the right, experienced attorney is important in determining what a service member’s rights and obligations are.

Some reservists encounter issues with their civilian bosses before leaving for an activation or deployment or when they return from one. Federal laws such as the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) help protect service members who face these problems. Our lawyers help navigate these difficult issues. A service member has enough to think about when deployment orders are issued – this should not be one of them.

Many veterans and ex-service members attempt to correct their military records. However, the process can be confusing and paralyzing. We can help you prepare your application before the Army Board of Correction of Military Records (ABCMR), Air Force Board of Correction of Military Records (AFBCMR), and the Board of Correction of Naval Records (BCNR).

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Is There Any Protection Under Military Law Against Cruelty and Maltreatment?

There are times when unforeseen circumstances can prohibit a military member from returning to duty after a stint of authorized leave. Here are a few situations where a member would probably not be found guilty of unauthorized absence:

Physically disabled: If a circumstance arose where a member was advised to remain in bed for health reasons, which meant he was unable to return to duty, then most probably he would be found to be physically incapacitated. If, on the other hand, the cause of illness was found to be self-induced, so that the member didn't have to return, then it could be a whole different story.

There was case law where a member went AWOL to obtain dental treatment through civilian means. The reason the member did this was because there had been a difference of opinion concerning the required medical treatment, and the member went untreated. This was not accepted as a defense for physical incapacity.

Transportation misfortunes: There may be unfortunate circumstances that prevent a member from returning to duty, but the circumstances are very rigid. It has to be a pretty good excuse to get one off the hook in this circumstance.

For example, a member was returning to duty from a weekend pass when his car broke down. The member decided to stay with the car while it was being repaired. As a result it put him in an unauthorized absence position. He was not able to use the defense of "no fault," and was found to have stayed with his vehicle for his own convenience.

Acts of God: To the surprise of many, this is often not an acceptable defense. For example, if there were some type of warning that a storm, earthquake, or some other natural disaster were pending for the near future and the member had the opportunity to return to duty before disaster struck, they could be found guilty of the offence of unauthorized leave if they were then delayed due to the event.

Unauthorized leave due to civilian confinement: This is a very complex area of the law pertaining to a member who is confined and therefore unable to return to duty. The outcome would be based on the circumstances of the civilian findings.

These are just a few basic examples that make the point that nothing should ever be taken for granted when it comes to military law. Obtain legal advice as quickly as possible in the face of any charges, no matter how small they seem.