Facing criminal allegations can significantly threaten your military career. Contact the Helfend Law Group to safeguard your reputation and protect your rights at 800-834-6434. 

Navigating the complexities of both military and civilian court systems can be overwhelming. 

That’s why if you are a servicemember, it’s crucial to secure a seasoned criminal defense attorney. With extensive experience and a deep understanding of these dual systems, attorney Robert M. Helfend is committed to vigorously defending your rights.

The criminal process for military service members 

The United States military has its own rules regarding the criminal process for military servicemembers, known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The UCMJ applies to most members of the military including those who serve in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard as well as members of the reserves engaged in active service. 

In some cases, the military court has jurisdiction over retired servicemembers as well. The UCMJ is separate from the civilian court system and most often required members of the military to be “court-martialed,” or tried and convicted in military court. There are, however, some instances in which a servicemember’s case may be tried in civilian court or in both military court and civilian court. Defendants can be represented by a military or civilian attorney in a military court, however civilian lawyers are required for cases tried in civilian courts. It’s important for defendants being tried in civilian court to hire a criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable about the legal process for military service members. 

Some crimes exist only within the context of the military and always fall under the jurisdiction of the military court. 

Some military crimes include:

  • Insubordinate conduct
  • Failure to obey and order
  • Sedition
  • Mutiny

Crimes that only violate military law are rare, as most crimes are also violations of civilian law. If a defendant is charged with a crime that violates military law and federal law, they may only be charged in military court or federal court. 

A member of the military can’t be court-martialed and tried in federal court for the same offense. However, a defendant can be tried in a military court and a state court for the same offense, if it violates both military and state law.

Crimes that violate military and civilian law

Crimes that violate both military and civilian law and could potentially be tried in both military and civilian court include:

  • Robbery
  • Assault
  • DUI (driving under the influence)
  • Murder

Under the U.S. Constitution, the military court has jurisdiction over members of the armed forces and civilian courts can try cases in which a federal or state statute has been violated. If a servicemember violates civilian law, their case may be tried in civilian court. 

When a member of the military is court-martialed, they have a right to a free, court-appointed military lawyer. They can also choose to hire their own military attorney to represent them. If a servicemember’s case is tried in a civilian court, a civilian defense attorney will be required. Not all civilian attorneys are familiar with the complexities of representing a client who is an active member of the military, so it is important to choose an attorney with the appropriate knowledge and experience. 

Your civilian attorney will use the facts of your case to build the strongest possible legal defense against your charges. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to have your charges dropped before going to trial. If your case does go to trial, your attorney will represent you in court against state or federal prosecutors. Below are four key ways that your civilian criminal defense attorney will support and defend you throughout the legal process:

1. Case evaluation

The first thing your attorney will do is thoroughly evaluate the details of your case. During this phase, your lawyer will examine the details of the alleged crime and the charges you are facing as well as any evidence against you and evidence that can be used to fight your charges. Your civilian attorney will use the information they’ve gathered to develop a strong defense strategy. Whether your defense results in having your charges dropped or reduced or receiving a less severe punishment, your attorney will work to find you the best possible outcome. 

2. Trial preparation

If your case goes to trial, your defense attorney will determine how to present your defense before the court. Your lawyer will also prepare you to appear in court and keep you informed of your rights throughout the trial process. 

3. Representation during trial

The process of going to trial can be stressful and intimidating, especially if you’re required to stand trial in both military and civilian courts. The benefits of working with a knowledgeable and dedicated criminal defense attorney are apparent when your case enters the courtroom. The time and energy that your lawyer puts into evaluating your case, building your defense, and preparing for trial means that the process will be as simple and effective as possible. You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that your attorney has done everything possible to defend your rights and reputation. 

If you’re facing criminal allegations as a member of the armed forces, you likely have a lot of questions and concerns about the situation you’re facing and its potential impact on the future of your career. Additionally, understanding and navigating the rules and procedures of the UCMJ and civilian courts can be overwhelming. A civilian criminal defense attorney with experience representing military clients is your best resource for information and legal advice regarding your case. Your attorney will be there to advise and council you throughout the entire legal process. If you have questions about your case at any point, your attorney should be able to provide you with the answers you need.

The Helfend Law Group is proud to defend those who have dedicated their lives to defending us. We offer around-the-clock support and legal representation to servicemembers from all branches of the military. 

As one of the most highly rated civilian criminal defense attorneys in Los Angeles by Lead Counsel, Super Lawyers, and the National Trial Lawyers Top 100, Robert M. Helfend has successfully defended clients in both California state and federal court cases. If you’re a military servicemember who has been charged by a civilian court, you need an attorney who will fight to protect your reputation. Call us today to schedule a free consultation 800-834-6434