Are you a member of the armed services being investigated for a crime? It is difficult enough to face a criminal charge. But if you are a member of the armed forces, your problem is potentially doubled. Not only are you defending a criminal charge in California state court, you may also be subject to a proceeding under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
Our firm has vast experience representing service members (Navy, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard) facing serious misdemeanor and felony allegations and charges. We understand the complications of having to defend yourself against a criminal charge on two fronts. We not only defend you against any charges in civilian court, we also work with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) or other military investigative service that may be involved.
If you are a member of the military being investigated for a crime, now would be the time to act. Our involvement with NCIS or other agency could make the difference in your case and career.
The prohibition against double jeopardy is the constitutional provision that is designed to protect a person from being charged and punished more than once for the same offense. While that concept works well in the civilian world, it becomes more complicated – and less effective – for a defendant who is a member of the military.
An example would be when a service member is charged with a DUI allegedly committed off the base. The situation becomes more difficult, for example, when the military attempts to prosecute that individual after he or she has been acquitted in civilian court. While the double jeopardy concept would appear to bar the military action, that is not always the case. For example, double jeopardy rules (when they become applicable in a case) differ in civilian and military courts. In addition, double jeopardy only applies to criminal proceedings. If you are tried in civilian court, the military could still apply administrative sanctions, such as loss of pay, and you could still face a court-martial for the same conduct.
On occasion, service members who are off the military installation are arrested by the civilian police for alleged criminal activity. When a client contacts our firm under these circumstances, we view our role more broadly than in cases where the military is not involved:
- First, as in all cases, we focus on the civilian charge itself – DUI, assault, drugs, theft, etc. We examine the facts, review the available evidence, and develop a game plan for our defense.
- Second, because the military may take action on what is essentially the same set of facts, we work with NCIS to attempt to coordinate activities and avoid duplication of effort and, more importantly, use that relationship to limit the charges to a single, civilian proceeding. We will also be able to coordinate with the military through your JAG attorney, if your military case goes forward.
Apart from dealing with your civilian case on the merits, the essential issue we must address in order to protect you is to avoid having the charge against you duplicated in the civilian and military courts. Without that protection, you run the risk of what is effectively double punishment for the same offense, or even punishment by the military after your civilian case is decided in your favor.
During the time that your civilian case moves forward, the NCIS will usually move forward with its investigation of the alleged violation of the UCMJ. We not only work with NCIS, but also advise you on what to do while you are under investigation. Some of our advice – for example, not making any statements – may be similar to what we tell our civilian clients. But by communicating with NCIS, our experience is that we can often provide you with better protection when dual charges are threatened or pending.
The status of a service member charged with a crime in civilian court is confusing. It also carries the risk of being punished twice for the same offense, or being acquitted in civilian court, and still being subject to military discipline.
At RJT Criminal Lawyer, we know how to manage these situations. Working with NCIS, and utilizing our experience in criminal matters, we attempt to limit your exposure to penalties, while at the same time seeking the best possible result in your civilian case. Call us at 619-577-0868 to speak to an experienced San Diego criminal lawyer.