UCMJ Issues

Patriots Law Group defends service members facing a Court-Martial, Article 15, Discharge or other Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) issue, and no matter what you were accused of, or the location of your case, we have an attorney who can help — one who knows the military system inside and out.

Military Criminal Defense: Military members are held to a higher standard of conduct than their civilian counterparts. In fact, military members are held to the stricter legal requirements of either: (a) the local civilian community or (b) the Uniform Code of Military Justice. For example, if the laws of the local community prohibit driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .03 (like Japan), but the UCMJ allows driving up to a BAC of .08, then military members can be found guilty of DUI at .03 while operating a vehicle in Japan despite the fact that such conduct would be legal in the United States. In contrast, if the laws of the local community allow for the use of marijuana (like Colorado), a military member can be found guilty of drug possession for legally buying marijuana in a Colorado dispensary because marijuana is illegal under the UCMJ. Civilian counsel frequently do not understand the complexities of the military justice system. You need an attorney that has tried cases within the military justice system, who understands how military and civilian law intersect, and who knows which laws apply in your situation.

If you are alleged to have violated the military's rules, you are subject to courts-martial. Learning that your commander intends to “prefer charges” against you (recommend a higher commander court-martial) can be devastating and overwhelming. We know that having to work under a commander that is trying to put you in jail and alongside coworkers who believe rumors about the charges against you creates a unique stress. We understand that a court-martial interferes with career opportunities and that it may even affect the support system that you and your family rely upon to deal with the pressure of military duty. We will defend against these charges and always treat our clients with the respect and dignity they deserve throughout the case.

Further, at Patriots Law Group, we know that a military conviction can lead to the loss of your military pension, GI Bill, and other VA benefits in addition to incarceration and loss of rank. Knowing what's at stake, we will fight to defeat your charges and protect your hard-earned military benefits. When you retain a Patriots Law Group attorney, you get a defense attorney who has stood in the shoes of your prosecutor, but who has no duty or desire to serve anyone but you.

Types of Courts-Martial: There are three types of courts martial, and each type has unique requirements with regard to who determines your guilt or innocence and the type/severity of punishment. The three types of courts-martial are:

  • Summary Court-Martial: This court deals with minor accusations of misconduct. The judge in this case is one commissioned officer who may be a military attorney, depending on the policies and practices of that particular location. The punishments available to the court-martial officer are limited in nature. A military member may only be tried by a summary court martial if he/she consents.
  • Special Court-Martial: This court will hear cases that involve more serious misconduct. A military judge presides over the hearing and a jury (unless waived) of at least three officers decide the case. If the accused is an enlisted service person, he or she can request that the panel consist of at least one-third enlisted military members. The maximum sentence a Special Court-Martial can impose is confinement up to one year. In addition to some monetary punishments and lesser punishments (e.g. reprimand, etc.), the Special Court-Martial can impose a bad conduct discharge for enlisted personnel. An officer cannot be confined or dismissed from service by a Special Court-Martial.
  • General Court-Martial: This is the highest court available in the military justice system, and it hears only the most egregious cases. A military judge presides over the hearing and a jury (unless waived) of at least five officers decide the case. Like the Special Court-Martial, the accused can request a specific make-up of the officers if they are currently enlisted. The penalties available at a General Court-Martial range from death to dishonorable or bad-conduct dismissal. Confinement and other lesser punishments are also possible. The major difference between the General Court-Martial and the other forms of courts-martial is that the General Court-Martial is required to hold an Article 32 Hearing prior to trial at this level. This is an investigative hearing where the investigating officer reviews all of the evidence and receives testimony from witnesses. Following the Article 32 Hearing, the hearing officer will submit a report to the commander summarizing the hearing and making a recommendation as to whether the case should go forward or be dismissed. This hearing makes the entire process much more time consuming and costly, but it is required by the UCMJ.

Use of a Free Military Defense Lawyer: Many civilian lawyers that represent military members facing court-martial disparage active duty military defense counsel; however, Patriots Law Group knows and understands that active duty military defense counsel work very hard to represent their client and do so with a very heavy workload. As a result, we at Patriots Law Group refuse to disparage the active duty JAGs working to defend military members. With that said, we strongly believe your best defense is through experienced civilian defense counsel that know the military system inside and out through prior service.

Our opinion is based simply on the fact that most active duty defense attorneys only defend cases for a few years before moving on to different assignments. In stark contrast, the civilian defense attorneys at Patriots Law Group focus exclusively on representing military defendants and therefore have significant experience handling criminal cases — court-martial and civilian. Moreover, it is important to understand that the military's mission trumps your single case and, therefore, if your military defense counsel is deployed, reassigned (or separated), you can be left with a totally new military defense counsel at the last minute. Unfortunately, your new counsel may view your case in a different light and disregard the work prepared by your prior military defense counsel. Indeed, the constant churn of staff and personnel in and out of the active duty defense counsel's office jeopardizes your defense and your future. When you retain Patriots Law Group, on the other hand, you know we will guide you and defend you until your case is finished. Call us today to see how we can help. You simply have too much at stake to ignore the benefits of retaining Patriots Law Group to defend you.

Article 15, Discharge, or other UCMJ Defense: Our attorneys are also skilled at defending all other UCMJ actions brought against military members. In some ways, these military proceedings present greater risk to a military member because the burden of proof (what the military must prove) is much lower than that in a court-martial. However, the punishment can be just as severe as Article 15 and discharge actions can lead to the loss of rank, pay, VA entitlements, retirement, and, ultimately, the military member's career. Even a series of “minor disciplinary infractions” (e.g. failing to maintain grooming standards or failing to perform remedial fitness training) can lead to your discharge. As a result, you need to treat every disciplinary matter — Article 15, Recommendation for Discharge, LOR/LOC/LOA — as serious. Contact us to protect your career and livelihood.

Patriots Law Group serves clients – military, dependent, retirees and civilians – throughout Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and New York, including but not limited to, Upper Marlboro, Bowie, Prince Frederick, Dunkirk, College Park, Hyattsville, LaPlata, Fort Washington, Clinton, Prince George's County, Calvert County, Charles County, and military installations at Joint Base Andrews, Fort George G. Meade, Surface Forces Logistics Center, Bethesda Naval Hospital, U.S. Naval Academy, Patuxent River, Bolling Air Force Base, Fort Belvoir, the Navy Yard, and the Pentagon.

DISCLAIMER:  The contents of this website are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions.  No action should be taken in reliance on the information contained on this website and Patriots Law Group and its affiliated attorneys disclaim all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this  website to the fullest extent permitted by law.  An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues.