Unlike a civilian case where you could escape a serious sentence or fines especially if you had committed a violation for the first time, military courts have a very high level of strictness that throw the book of military justice at you with your very first offense. If you are in the army, navy or air-force and have fallen foul of military laws then you should hire an aggressive Military Lawyer from Colorado Springs to defend yourself in a military court.
Armed forces in countries like the United States of America have separate laws and a Military Lawyer can help you determine if you have broken any of them. If you end up breaking any law during your stint in the armed forces then you could find yourself facing a court martial that could end with disastrous results. Depending on the nature of your crime, you could simply face a pay cut or end up with a dishonorable discharge. You could also face a stiff prison sentence unlike a civilian case where you just might end up with a slap on your wrists.
When Unauthorized Absence Or AWOL May Not Be a Crime According to Military Law
While in service I visited the United States as a guest of the US Air Force. As I was sometimes a presiding officer of Court Martial in India (being legally qualified), I was interested how the US military law functions. One significant difference is that in the US, there is at the moment one Unified Military Code which is applicable to all the 4 service arms namely the army, airforce, navy and coast guard, while in India we have a separate military code for each service.
The Unified Military code is a comparatively recent occurrence and was signed into law by President Truman only in 1951. Prior to this the code was amorphous and had very fewer checks and balances. The US military law took almost 175 years to evolve to the present Unified Military Code.
The US was a colony of England till 1776, till a war of Independence by the settlers against the English army led to the creation of the American state.As the American state emerged, a set of laws to regulate the army were considered essential. to start with the new state adopted the British codes for the US armed force. The US army now adopted what is known as the Articles of War 1775. These were derived from the British law and consisted of 69 sections. the American military code is credited to John Adams, who was a lawyer at that time. Later he became the President of the United States. The Articles of War found wide acceptance and at the Conference of the Continental Army, they were ratified.
The Articles of War were an exact copy of the British law, underwent a change and some amendments were incorporated in 1806. A team of military experts and lawyers studied codes of many nations including the French and raised the sections from 69 to 101. The code provided for summary execution and in some cases the Commanding Officer of Unit at the time of battle if convinced, could order execution of a combatant. There was no appeal. The code was effective and it instilled discipline in the US army. it was widely used in the US civil war from 1861-65.
The beauty of this code was that it continued for almost 150 years, without any questions being raised. The first time the code was questioned was in the period of the First World War when 13 black soldiers were summarily hanged for " mutiny". Later it came to notice that the punishment was excessive and as there was no appeal the sentence was carried out immediately. It was also mentioned that the bigger crime of the soldiers was that they were black.
To avoid a dip in morale the Secretary of defense Newton D Barker intervened. He ordered that henceforth no executions could be carried out without referring the matter to Washington. Thus a major change was effected in the military code.
After the end of the Second World War, the three Chiefs of Staff appointed a committee to streamline US military law. The committee came up with the Unified Military Code which became law from 1951. One significant change was that a series of checks and balances was introduced and the code made more humane. Death was made an exception and not a rule. This code is now in vogue in the USA. In India also experts are working on a Unified code for all 3 services.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
The armed forces have huge resources in terms of finance and manpower that is sure to be used against you in case you end up making a legal mistake. You will thus require an equally aggressive Military Lawyer that has enough experience in handling different types of military cases including the one that you find yourself in. Your lawyer should be well-conversant with all military laws along with the latest amendments. Since the military usually awards severe sentences even to minor infractions, an experienced lawyer can help you to win your case or at least try to get a reduced sentence in case of a loss.
If you do not have a pro-active and aggressive lawyer to represent your case then you could be pressurized into signing a guilty plea or enter into a plea deal that could anyway harm your interests. An expert lawyer with in-depth military law knowledge could study the proposals offered by the prosecution and help you make an informed decision that could save you from a long prison sentence or a discharge. Since the military has a very high conviction rate, you would most certainly be doomed if you do not have an experienced and fearless Military Lawyer on your side.
Your lawyer will anyway be outnumbered by lawyers and experts from the armed forces once he or she takes up your case. In case you are in the midst of getting a divorce when serving in the military then again such a lawyer that is an expert in divorce cases could help you to successfully get a divorce and get on with your life again. You could also hire a lawyer in case your military pension is stuck due to any reason. In any case, your lawyer will surely have a tough fight on his or her hands since the military will surely put its might behind each case so as to secure a conviction or victory.
If you are a member of the armed forces then you would be governed under military law and any infringement on your part could be met with harsh legal action. You should certainly hire an aggressive Military Lawyer to protect yourself, your reputation and your finances in case you end up on the other side of the military fence.