Getting arrested for a firearms charge as a member of the military can be devastating to a career. It’s crucial that you hire an attorney with the perspective required for your case.
My military experience sets me apart from other attorneys. I’ve been in the military for over 20 years–Air National Guard, active duty Air Force, and the Air Force Reserve. I know what to expect, and I know how to talk the talk when addressing your case with commanders and supervisors. I’m able to get on any military installation–something that very few attorneys can do. This is helpful when meeting with you on base/post, meeting with supervisors/commanders, and meeting with others who work on base such as the Area Defense Counsel.
NOTE: I only represent people charged with crimes in Oklahoma. If you’re charged with a crime in a different state, then you must contact an attorney licensed in that state!
How a Criminal Charge for the Military is Different
I’ve seen the effects of a criminal charge on many of my coworkers in the Air Force, and I’ve represented numerous people in the military. If you’re arrested for anything, it can end your career. You typically won’t be allowed to promote or re-enlist. The same is true for the Army, Navy, and Marines.
Take the example of an arrest that happens over the weekend. The commander will find out about it and have the individual show up in their service dress uniform early Monday morning. The commander will grill them about what happened. The member may even have to talk to several commanders about what happened. Additionally, the individual may even have to stand before their peers and explain what happened. I’ve even seen a situation where the commander opened it up to questions from members of the audience. People in the “audience” were actually asking the arrestee questions! So, these are all things that members of the military can be subjected to—shame, embarrassment, and railroading.
The biggest problem with the military’s approach is the breakdown in the presumption of innocence. Therefore, I try as hard as I can to get across to people that you need to ensure that your presumption of innocence is maintained. So, if you go and talk to your commander, then you can exercise your right to remain silent. You don’t have to tell everybody what happened. As soon as you tell one person what happened, even though it’s not to a law enforcement officer, what you say can and will be held against you. Your attorney can look over the evidence and discuss your case with you before you talk about it with anybody. You’ll be threatened, but just know that you have rights. Don’t let people who are of higher rank than you trample on those rights.
Representing Someone in the Military Charged With a Crime
I’ve represented members of the military stationed at Tinker AFB, Ft. Sill, Altus AFB, and elsewhere. These cases require a special approach.
Typically, some sort of punishment will be given out by the military very soon. This may happen even before you’re charged in a court with anything. This can include a Letter of Reprimand (LOR) or General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR). It’s crucial that a response to be written. This is something that do for my military clients. Since commanders, supervisors, and First Sergeants may attempt to question the servicemember, I notify those people that my military client is invoking their Fifth Amendment rights. Base police may attempt to revoke base or post driving rights. It’s crucial that efforts be made to preserve base driving privileges while the case is pending.
When a soldier is accused of breaking the law, the Army issues a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR). This is written by a General Officer reprimanding a soldier for their alleged bad behavior. The GOMOR can become part of the soldier’s military files. If it’s filed locally, then it will eventually be removed from the soldier’s files. A GOMOR filed in the soldier’s permanent file will likely stay there forever; this is devastating to a soldier’s chances of staying in the Army. It’s important for a soldier to do whatever is necessary to prevent the GOMOR from becoming a permanent part of his or her file.
Where will I be prosecuted?
If you’re in the military and you get arrested, you can be prosecuted on or off base. Usually, if it’s prosecuted off base. If you’re arrested on base, then it’s very likely that your case will be prosecuted on base. The Area Defense Counsel on base helps service members defend themselves against charges prosecuted on base. You may also hire a private attorney to handle your case on base.
If you’re prosecuted off base, you definitely want representation from someone who’s familiar with the procedures and the law for whatever jurisdiction is prosecuting you. The Area Defense Counsel cannot help you if your case is prosecuted off base.
Another consequence that arrested service members face is an Article 15—known as “non-judicial punishment.” Instead of going through a court martial, the commander has the ability to punish the member through an Article 15. This basically means that the commander can punish the member in some way. This is often what happens instead of going through a court-martial. The punishments with an Article 15 can range from extra duty on the weekends, to being confined to base, or even getting kicked out. The punishment received through an Article 15 is something that makes the servicemember unable to get promoted, and so they have to separate when their time is up.
Hire the Right Attorney
If you planned on making the military a career, then one arrest can end your entire life’s goal. It’s very important that you hire an attorney who understands what’s going on with the military, the culture there, and what they’re going to try to do to you. You must seek counsel who’s going to do everything they can to obtain an outcome that’s not going to cost you your job. Note that I only represent military members who have been charged with (or arrested for) a crime in Oklahoma. If your alleged crime didn’t occur in Oklahoma, then you must contact an attorney in whatever state the crime would be charged in.
Current as of April 4, 2020.