Serving in the United States military is one of the most honorable and sacrificial acts that a person can perform. Thousands of people give up normal lives and postpone families to serve their country and protect our freedom.
Part of the military lifestyle is following the unique rules and guidelines that apply only to members of the military. These rules may vary from civilian laws and often hold military personnel to a higher standard of excellence and behavior. Ultimately, their purpose is to keep the military running efficiently and ensure all personnel remain healthy and safe while working.
Unfortunately, the system is not always as honest as it should be. Jealousy, grudges, and other political distractions can lead to accusations and actions that wouldn’t otherwise have happened. There are many instances of abuse and mistreatment within the military, and it can lead to lifelong legal consequences.
If you have been accused of a military crime or are facing court-martial, you need an attorney to represent you. These cases are difficult and have the potential to ruin the rest of your life. It is imperative that you take appropriate action to protect yourself.
Aaron Meyer Law: Your Oceanside Military Civilian Defense Attorney
When it comes to fighting military charges or court-martials, it is important that you seek proper representation. Our team has been fighting military cases for many years. With military members on staff, we can provide a level of personal legal counsel that other attorneys can’t match. We have a lengthy history of winning cases, giving you peace of mind in your military case.
Don’t trust the attorney you are assigned by the military. Control your own destiny with Aaron Meyer Law.
What Is a Military Court Case?
Members of the military have different jobs and requirements than civilians do. Though this may seem obvious, it also means that military personnel must follow certain laws that do not apply to the rest of us. This is in addition to the laws and regulations meant for everyone in the United States.
When a member of the military breaks a law, they are not sent to a normal court. To streamline the legal process and enforce military laws, military personnel go through court-martial instead. Court-martial is an incredibly serious situation, and there are severe consequences if the defendant is found guilty.
Though some things about military court are the same as a standard legal setting, there are parts that are different also. The most important of these differences is the fact that the United States military prosecutes cases with more ferocity than civilian courts do. They do in-depth investigations and work diligently to make sure that any wrongdoings are properly punished.
Types of Military Crimes
As mentioned, there are laws and expectations that apply to members of the military and do not apply to the general public. There are also many civilian laws that still apply to members in the military, no matter where they are stationed. This results in a lot of rules to follow if you have enlisted.
Military crimes are taken seriously. Examples of offenses include:
- Sexual misconduct. This includes such offenses as fraternization, adultery, computer sex crimes, child pornography, sexual assault or harassment, etc.
- Failure to report for duty, AWOL, and desertion
- Drug use of any kind
- Larceny or fraud
- Pay fraud or allowance fraud
- Theft of government or personal property
- War crimes
- Violent crimes
All expectations and rules, including details of offenses, are spelled out during basic training.
If you are accused of a crime, you will have to go to courts-martial, or military court. This system runs similarly to a civilian court but does so only for members of the military. This results in a faster process for military trials.
Why Should I Hire a Civilian Attorney?
The military will assign you an attorney if you don’t get your own. Many people believe that using a free, government-assigned lawyer is sufficient. In military court, however, this could be a dangerous choice. The free attorney services offered are subpar and do not give you everything that you need from an attorney.
Oftentimes, military defendants do not receive an attorney assignment until they have already been charged and the assumption of guilt is well underway. This means that you may not have an attorney present for questioning and other key events that could sway the court toward finding you guilty.
Finally, you must consider what an attorney assigned by the government will actually do for you. There is plenty of room for corruption when the military has a say over your attorney assignment. Even if the attorney is honest, they are likely working on several cases at once. This means that your case will not get the time and attention that it requires. Essentially, you are receiving the aid of a public defender.
When you hire a civilian attorney, you receive the individualized attention that you deserve for your case. You can be sure that our team is truly on your side, as we are not employed by the organization that is prosecuting you. We have a more selective caseload than your assigned attorney would have, meaning that your case has a higher priority and a higher chance of winning.
Civilian attorneys give you the possibility of retaining your freedom, your lifestyle, and everything you’ve worked for. Don’t gamble on a government-assigned lawyer when so much is at stake.
Many military court cases go through special courts-martial. This is for severe cases that must be addressed with a full legal investigation, rather than minor offenses that are resolved in summary courts-martial. In these cases, three of your fellow service members are assigned to act as a jury. If you prefer, however, you may ask the judge alone to decide the facts of the case and forfeit the panel of three service members.
Though every situation is different, the outcomes of special courts-martial cases are similar. Usually, the defendant is sentenced to one of the following:
- One year of jail time, also called confinement
- Three months of forced hard labor
- Forfeiture of pay for six months
- Bad-conduct discharge
Keep in mind that these are the maximum sentences for each category. It is possible you will receive one of these punishments to a lesser degree.
No matter what your punishment is, however, you can be sure that it will have lasting consequences for your life. The military takes punitive action extremely seriously, and the consequences of breaking the law are severe. Many military members lose their families or spouses, their jobs, and their reputation after being found guilty.
The most severe type of military court is general courts-martial. This is where extreme and severe offenses are judged. For non-capital punishments, a defendant in general courts-martial receives a panel of five peers to act as a jury. In capital punishment cases, they receive 10. In some situations, the defense can waive their right to a panel of peers and ask that the judge make the ultimate decision in the case.
Under Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a pretrial investigation takes place before a general courts-martial trial can begin. In some circumstances, the defense can choose to waive this as well.
Potential punishments for an offense in general courts-martial are more severe than in any other military court. Some possibilities include:
- Life in prison
- Dishonorable discharge
Of course, the outcome of a case depends entirely on the details as well as your attorney’s ability to fight your case.
It’s important to note that capital punishment requires a unanimous decision by a panel of ten peers. The defense may not waive the panel if they are potentially facing the death penalty.
If you are apprehended for a crime while serving in the military, you may be detained until your court date. Because courts-martial cases are separate from standard legal cases, the process is usually faster. This means that you likely won’t have to wait more than 120 days between apprehension and your trial.
During this time, it is important to prepare. Your attorney should be in close and consistent contact while building your case and assembling evidence. They need to inform you of possible outcomes, as well as the likelihood of those outcomes, so you can mentally prepare for the trial.
Please note that a government-assigned attorney may not be able to meet with you regularly. You may not have many meetings with them at all, depending on how many caseloads they have. This can be extremely nerve-wracking, especially if you are waiting on a case involving capital punishment or taking place in general courts-martial. A civilian attorney will have significantly more time to spend with you and can build your case properly.
Burden of Proof
Just as in civilian cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This means that the prosecution (usually the military or government) must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Many people mistakenly believe that the defense doesn’t have to do very much if the burden of proof is on the prosecution. However, this is not the case. Prosecuting attorneys, especially ones who work for the military and government, are extremely effective. They can easily draw conclusions without viable proof and convince the panel or the judge that the conclusion is logical. Once you’ve been accused of a crime, it’s often easy for them to paint your situation in a bad light.
Our job as your defense attorney is to infuse doubt into the prosecution’s argument. By raising questions, we ensure that the panel or judge retains a reasonable amount of doubt. In this way, you cannot be found guilty.
The process is certainly more complicated than this, but it paints an accurate portrait of why a defense attorney is so important. Without one, the burden of proof is significantly less heavy.
Your Rights as a Defendant
If you’ve been charged with a crime and are facing court-martial, you must be aware that you have rights under the law. Though you are on trial, the law demands that you are treated fairly and as a human being. The rights that defendants are allowed in court are central to the judicial process and are key in both civilian and military cases. In fact, as a member of the military, you have a few rights beyond what civilian law provides.
For example, you can ask that the government pays experts in certain fields to come to court and testify. This is a wonderful way to infuse doubt into the prosecution’s case and use evidence-based information to bolster your argument. Unfortunately, many people do not take advantage of this right, and it is ultimately to their disadvantage.
Our team has decades of experience both serving in the military and serving as Oceanside civilian military defense lawyers. We have a deep and thorough understanding of your rights as a member of the military and as a person on trial. We ensure that you exercise all rights that help your case so that you do not miss out on basic ways to improve your case.
Aaron Meyer Law- Skilled Oceanside Civilian Military Lawyer Firm
Our team is passionate about what we do because we see how important the outcomes can be. Too many service members have been wrongly accused and even wrongly charged with crimes while serving their country. We believe that service should be rewarded, and all trials should be truly fair and just. Unfortunately, corruption, bribery, and false accusations make this difficult.
We are relentless in our pursuit of freedom and justice for those who fight for it. When you work with our Oceanside civilian military defense attorneys, you can be sure that you have the best chance of preserving your freedom, your lifestyle, and the achievements you have earned while in the military.
Don’t settle for a public defender who will give you lackluster or biased representation. Invest in your future and your freedom by contacting our office today.