Addressing several of the biggest issues which are unique to being charged with a civilian criminal offense as an active-duty military service member.
Impact of a Criminal Conviction on Your Military Career
Conviction of a crime can have a detrimental impact on anyone's career, but particularly on a member of the military. The moment you are charged with a crime, your career progression is placed on hold. Even if you are not convicted of the offense with which you've been charged, you could miss valuable opportunities for advancement due to the legal process. If you are convicted, you could face administrative separation action, which can result in a discharge characterization of "other than honorable" and ruin your chances of any future career as a service member. Many civilian attorneys misunderstand military legal action and subsequent ramifications. For example, civilian lawyers commonly make the mistake of thinking that a deferral or first-offender disposition of a criminal charge will not affect the client's military status; however, for the purposes of administrative separation action, the military considers deferral or first-offender status to be equal to a conviction.
Using Your Military Career as Mitigating Factors in Court
Evidence of an outstanding military career - no matter the length, as well as good military character can be extraordinarily helpful to obtaining a better result for a case than the facts would ordinarily suggest. What is most important is presenting to the presiding judge the version of you which is not consistent with the charged offenses and is a better depiction of who you actually are. Additionally, upon introduction of the military background, it can be conveyed to the judge how much is at stake with the pending criminal charges; much more than the everyday defendant that they see. In order to accomplish this, numerous things can be presented to the court in varying ways. A package can be assembled to show the judge your notable achievements. Included are normally your evaluations (assuming they are positive), any commendations, NAMs, unit awards, etc. Additionally, your command representative will be present and should be available to testify on your behalf to speak to your reputation at the command, whether you are an asset to the command, and anything else that may be relevant. If there is a prosecutor on the case, much of this will be unavailable to get into until sentencing is underway, as it is irrelevant to the question of guilt or innocence. If there is no prosecutor, however, much of this is able to be brought up before the judge renders a decision on guilt or innocence and can readily sway many judges. Unless your attorney has a solid working understanding of and experience with military clients facing civilian criminal charges, you cannot be sure that you will be properly represented with the best chance of success.
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