A Military Defense Lawyer Will Explain Your Right to Legal Representation In Court
Your military defense lawyer will help you understand your right to be represented by a lawyer or to represent yourself in a case.
Having an Attorney Is a Right, Not a Requirement
A military defense lawyer can represent you in a case, but you also have the right to be your own attorney. There are numerous factors to take into account when making the decision as to whether or not you should hire an attorney. They include:
1) The consequences of being convicted.
The worse the possible consequences of a conviction, the more likely it is that you will need to be represented by a lawyer. If the charges are of the federal criminal or state felony variety with your liberty in the balance, then it is advisable to have experienced legal representation. With a minor offense and no risk of jail, you can consider representing yourself. Even with a minor offense, a conviction can have consequences that you were not aware of. For example, you might avoid jail but will have to pay higher insurance rates, lose a professional license, and face greater penalties if you are convicted of subsequent offenses.
2) Facing the criminal justice system as a neophyte.
There are multiple entities you will have to deal with. These include the police, the prosecutor, the witnesses and the judge. Without legal experience, it will be difficult to have an understanding of all the legal nuances. A military defense lawyer can help to ensure that you are treated fairly and will not be victimized by governmental overreach.
3) Criminal laws and procedures.
There are certain procedures with criminal law that can be complicated. The system is governed by procedural and evidentiary rules. There will be opening statements, witness cross-examination and closing arguments. If you are unaware of how to make certain your rights are asserted, you are facing a disadvantage.
Call an Experienced Military Defense Lawyer
What Is Larceny?
If you are facing larceny charges or other charges while serving in the military, our military law attorney may be able to provide the representation you need. Larceny or theft is a major offense according to military law that comes with serious penalties. Whether you were charged with an event that allegedly happened while you were off-duty or while actively serving, you may need an attorney to actively defend your rights.
Military Crimes Defense
A military attorney works to offer immediate representation to enlisted service members. According to Article 80 from the Uniform Military Code of Justice, larceny is defined as the act of illegally taking someone else’s property without their consent or knowledge through the use of fear, force or deception. Penalties for larceny vary depending on the means through which the goods were obtained as well as the type and value. If you stole property belonging to the United States military with a value of $500 or less, you may be faced with a bad-conduct discharge and spend up to one year in confinement without pay. If the property was any military vehicle, firearm, vessel, aircraft or explosive, you will face a dishonorable discharge and up to 10 years in confinement.
The Need for Representation
When you work with an experienced military law attorney, you gain an ally in defending yourself against the filed charges. It is essential to work with an attorney who understands the severity of larceny charges and can help you argue against a court martial, discharge, rank change or any other disciplinary action that is taken against you. Such actions can have lifelong consequences on your career and life both within the military and after discharge, so it is crucial to have the highest quality representation possible. A lawyer may also help inform you of your rights and remove some of the stress associated with navigating a military trial on your own.
Contact a Military Law Attorney
Contact the Law Offices of Haytham Faraj today at (312) 635-0800 to work with a military law attorney you can trust.
What If I Am a Member of the Military and Find Myself Called in Just to Answer a Few Questions
Remain silent and don’t speak. You may give your name and military ID card and then you refuse to answer any questions unless you have a military defense lawyer present.
Article 31b of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) gives you the right to remain silent when you are suspected of committing an offense. It also gives you the right to have a military defense lawyer present during any questioning. You have these rights even if you are not apprehended or arrested by military authorities. If someone who wants to ask you a question has reason to suspect you may have committed an offense, that person must advise you of your Article 31b rights before asking you any other questions. He or she may then only continue if you agree to waive your rights to remain silent and to have a military defense lawyer present during questioning.
What If a Law Enforcement Officer Asks Me Some Questions, Either at a Police Station or Anywhere Else?
If a law enforcement officer asks me some questions, remain silent if you think you may somehow be implicated in a criminal investigation. If you are simply a bystander who witnessed a crime, you should tell the officers everything you observed and cooperate.
What should I do if I am apprehended or arrested by the police, military police, or any other state or federal law enforcement authorities?
If you are apprehended or arrested , and read your rights, ask for an attorney and remain silent. Simply state that you would like to consult with an attorney and that you would like to assert your constitutional right to remain silent. SIGN NOTHING! You may provide them with your name and ID card and then refuse to answer any questions unless you have a lawyer present.
How do you determine your fees for federal criminal defense cases?
Our firm charges a fee plus reimbursed legal expenses. These reimbursed legal expenses not quoted in the initial fee may include items such as hiring experts for analysis or testimony, travel expenses including airfare, hotel and rental car, and filing fees for administrative requirements of the judicial system. Examples of additional expertise include, but are not limited to, investigative services, polygraph services, development of physical evidence, graphic depictions, legal research services, and filing fees. These expenses will be billed as they accrue during the case and are due upon receipt .
How do you determine your fees for military defense cases?
Legal services fees are assessed and determined based on evaluating the case complexity, level of effort, and duration of the litigation. The severity of the charges and the individual circumstances are also considered. In most cases, a flat fee plus expenses will be charged. Representation for other administrative matters (corrections of military records, medical boards, and appeals) is more appropriately charged on an hourly fee-plus-expenses basis; a reasonable retainer is required at the time the contract is signed.
How does the proess of hiring a military criminal defense attorney begin?
Our firm typically begins the process of providing high-quality legal advice and services with a consultation, so we can gain an understanding of the charges or investigation prior to providing an estimate of fees. We’re happy to include immediate family members in the consultation, so we can explain the federal judicial system, the military criminal legal system, and help facilitate informed decisions.
What happens behind the scenes when a service member is charged?
Whether a service member is informed of the charges or not, the process will continue. Here’s what happens behind the scenes: Initially, the charge sheet will be delivered to the unit’s commanding officer. The platoon leader, OIC, company level commander, or some other officer at the first level of command will make a determination about the seriousness of the offense and decide whether to handle the charge at his level or send it higher.
If the charge is not considered serious, the commander or OIC will ask the unit legal officer or Senior Staff Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge to draft a unit punishment book (UPB) in order to conduct a non-judicial punishment proceeding which is also known as an Article 15 and Captain’s Mast. If the first level commander or OIC believes the charge is too serious to be resolved at an Article 15 hearing or non-judicial punishment, he will send the charge sheet to the next commander in the chain of command who is normally a battalion commander, squadron level commander, or ship’s Captain. This commander is often also known as the Convening Authority if he or she has the authority to convene courts-martial. Once the battalion or squadron level commander or ship’s Captain receives the charge sheet, he or she will decide whether to hold a battalion / squadron level non-judicial punishment or Article 15, or in the Navy, a Captain’s Mast. If the commander decides to hold an Article 15 hearing, then the process may end there. If, however, he or she decides that the charges are too serious for an Article 15, they will send the charge sheet to the legal services office so that a prosecutor may be assigned to the case to investigate and prosecute. At about the same time, a similar copy of the file will be forwarded to the defense services office so that a defense lawyer may also be assigned.
Once the prosecutor receives the charges, he or she will draft a more formal charge sheet which will be used in the court-martial. Depending on the seriousness of the accusation, the charges may be referred to a Special or — the more serious — General court-martial. A Special court-martial is distinguished from a General court-martial by the maximum punishment that may be awarded. A special court martial has a maximum punishment of 1 year in confinement, forfeitures of 2/3 of all pay (but not allowances) for a period of 12 months, reduction to E-1, and a bad conduct discharge. A General court-martial on the other hand may carry a sentence of death, life in prison, or any other term of confinement depending on the severity of the charge, total forfeitures of all pay and allowances for the period of confinement, reduction to E-1, and dishonorable discharge or a dismissal in the case of officers.
A court-martial is just like the trials often seen in TV court dramas. It will have a judge, a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and if the defendant chooses, a jury made up of military members. Courts-martial must be conducted in accordance with very strict rules of procedure and evidence and require an experienced trial attorney who is thoroughly familiar with all the rules of evidence and procedure and who is comfortable in the court-room to achieve the best results possible for an accused service member.
In a court-martial, the Government must present evidence and witnesses to prove its case of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant also has a right to present evidence and witnesses and to demonstrate that the Government cannot prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Once all the evidence and witnesses are presented, lawyers give closing arguments and the jury deliberates on guilt and innocence. In the military justice process, the jury does not have to be unanimous. If 2/3 agrees on guilt, then the defendant is guilty.
If a defendant is found not guilty, then everything ends. If, however, a finding of guilty is made, the defendant will be sentenced. And depending on the finding and the sentence, the defendant will have a right to appeal the conviction. The appeal is automatic if the defendant is sentenced to one year in prison or receives a punitive discharge of any type.
In a case when a defendant is found guilty but does not receive a bad conduct discharge, the military will almost always begin what is known as administrative separations processing. This will force the defendant who has just gone through a court-martial to have to defend him or herself all over again in front of an administrative separations board which may award a discharge other than an honorable discharge. An experienced attorney is essential during this phase as well to ensure that the service member’s rights are not abused.
A military defendant is entitled to consult with a lawyer at any time he or she is accused and to be represented by an attorney during a court-martial. The above explanation of the military justice process is a brief overview of a very complex process that often frustrates and demoralizes individuals who find themselves at the center of it. Our experienced, aggressive, and knowledgeable attorney is talented at skillfully navigating the military justice process and achieving successful results for our clients.
What is the military justice process?
The question most often asked about military justice is whether justice is ever achieved. After all, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) was created to maintain good order and discipline so that commanders may achieve their mission. The goal of achieving the mission, however, is often inconsistent with personal needs of military members to achieve a just outcome to their legal and administrative problems, whether they are innocent or guilty. Military justice, therefore, is a frequently confusing, alien, hostile, and impersonal process that fails to protect the essential rights of military members unless they have an experienced lawyer who understands the military justice process, the military, and has the courage to fight for his or her client’s rights.
Most military members will be exposed to the notion of military justice during their basic training where they receive classes about the UCMJ, including their duties and obligations and a little about their rights. But real exposure to the military justice process most often happens when a service member faces some sort of charge or accusation. Upon a charge being made, normally with a charge sheet, an investigation, or some other form, the service member is informed that he or she is accused of a violating the UCMJ or some order or regulation. The service member is then either questioned or left to wonder about the future. Sometimes accused service members are read their UCMJ rights and interrogated during the investigation phase. Many times they are questioned without being informed of their rights under Article 31b. This essentially begins the investigatory phase of the military justice process and the service member’s first personal contact with it.
What happens if the convening authority recommends that the charges go forward?
If the convening authority recommends that the charges go forward, the charges will be referred to a Court Martial. At that time, the charges will be either amended, kept the same or added to, based on the investigation. Charges will eventually be brought before a court presided over by a military judge. The first step in the judicial process is what is called an “Arraignment”. An arraignment is an opportunity for the defendant to come to court and to place a plea on the record. In most cases, the plea is not guilty or a reservation of the plea meaning that neither a guilty nor a not guilty will be stated on the record but an election to reserve making a plea is made. The reason that sometimes the election to plea is reserved, is to allow an opportunity to the defense to file motions. In the military, once a plea is placed on the record, under the rules no motions may be filed without permission from the court. Therefore, pleas are often reserved until a future date to enable the defense to file motions.
What is an Article 32 hearing?
An Article 32 hearing is a formal investigation governed by Rule for Court Martial 405 from the Manual for Courts Martial. The Article 32 hearing is presided upon by an investigating officer, usually a lawyer but not necessarily. Both the prosecution and the defense will have an opportunity to present evidence and witnesses to either establish probable cause for the charges to go forward or to determine that there is no probable cause, meaning the charges are not substantiated and for the charges not to go forward. The investigating officer will prepare a report of his/or her findings and submit the report to the convening authority. The convening authority will seek advice from the Staff Judge Advocate and then determine whether to accept or reject the investigating officer’s recommendations. The convening authority will often reject the investigating officer’s recommendations, if the recommendation is not to go forward in in a sex assault case. The reason that the recommendation is often rejected in sex assault cases is because of the political climate surrounding allegations of sex assault in the military.
What happens when someone is charged with sex assault or Article 120?
The charging process begins with a prosecutor reviewing the case and making a decision about how to specifically write the charges, that is done based on the alleged facts of the case and interviews with witnesses. After drafting the initial charges, the charges are sworn by the prosecutor or someone in the prosecutor’s office and then served upon the defendant or as they are called in the military, the “accused”. Once the charges are served, the defendant will be assigned a military lawyer. The defendant may choose to and should seriously consider hiring a civilian lawyer once he or she is made aware that an investigation is underway. The defendant and the lawyer must meet to discuss the case and then begin to prepare their defense. The next event that happens, is what is called an Article 32 hearing.
I have been accused of sex assault or violating Article 120, what do I do?
The first thing you must do is assert your right to an attorney and remain silent. An accusation of sex assault is a very serious accusation, it could result in up to a life-time of imprisonment and registration as a sex offender for life. Contact a military defense attorney immediately. Be prepared to discuss the facts of your case with your attorney and to provide names and numbers of potential witnesses.
What if I am accused of a committing a war crime?
This is one of the most serious situations a member of the military could be forced to deal with. When serving in a combat area, there is little or no time to make a decision about protecting yourself or your comrades when an unexpected attack from insurgents or other situation arises. Good soldiers can face severe consequences if accused of violating any part of the Geneva Convention or the Rules of Engagement. It is extremely important that you have the best possible legal representation if you are accused of any war crime.
What is an Article 15 or Captain’s Mast Offense?
The UCMJ has a provision to allow for punishment for misconduct through certain judicial proceedings, such as a court martial. There is also the ability to impose a nonjudicial punishment, which is under Article 15 of the Code. The purpose is maintaining discipline within the ranks. Penalties can be imposed for minor offenses. Your commander is given authority under this Code to administer these punishments. The offenses covered under Article 15 include offenses against property (such as theft, trespassing, check fraud, larceny, etc.), and offenses against public peace (such as assault, providing alcohol to a minor, harassment, disorderly conduct, acts of violence, littering, and minor drug offenses etc.) and offenses against public safety (such as disturbing the peace, careless operation of a vehicle, discharging weapons, etc.).
Nonjudicial punishments (NJP) are the punishments allowed to be imposed for a range of minor offenses. The commander (if you are a member of the Army or Air Force) or the “officer in Charge (the officer who has court martial authority) has the right to make an inquiry into what occurred, and have a hearing on the offense. This individual in authority can dismiss the charges, or to impose punishments as laid out in the act, and refer the case for a court martial. The nature of the offense and whether it is considered minor is decided by that individual officer.
What if I am accused of sexual assault and there is no basis to the accusation?
Even if you are falsely accused, under the current system, all such cases are to be prosecuted, under the direction of the Pentagon. This is a very distressing situation that must be handled with an extreme level of professionalism, discretion and skill. A conviction can destroy your career and lead to an extensive period of incarceration.
How does the military justice process really work?
Sadly, in many cases, not well. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), although written with the best intentions, in application has resulted in some serious injustices to individuals serving in the Armed Forces. It is imperative that your individual rights are protected if you are facing criminal charges, whether a DUI or a war crime or any other offense, including sexual offenses. Your future military career advancement, your reputation and your freedom are at risk in any such case. At The Law Offices of Haytham Faraj, PLLC, the lead attorney is one of the most respected military criminal defense lawyers in the country, and to date, has never lost a case for one of his clients serving in the Armed Forces.