Military Criminal Defense Lawyers in Norfolk, VA
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Are you an active member of the military in Virginia who has been charged with a crime? Perhaps you are stationed at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana in Virginia Beach or Joint Expeditionary Base (JEB) Little Creek/Fort Story, and you have been charged with a criminal offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Or maybe you’re stationed at NAS Oceana Dam Neck Annex, and you were arrested and charged with fraternization, larceny, being AWOL or another serious charge.
Whatever the circumstances of your Virginia military criminal case, our legal team at Welch & Wright, PLLC can vigorously defend your rights. Our skilled Norfolk military criminal defense attorneys know the unique laws and regulations that apply to military personnel. Our trial lawyers are familiar with the military courts that handle military criminal cases in the Virginia Beach area. We’re the law firm you want when your future is on the line.
How are military criminal cases different?
If you are an active-duty service member in the U.S. Armed Forces and you are charged with a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), your case will be handled by a military court rather than a civilian court in most cases. Even if your alleged crime occurred off base or while on furlough and you are arrested by a local police officer, a military judge in a military court will typically decide what happens, not a civilian judge or court. And even if civilian law enforcement pursues charges without notifying military authorities, as they may in instances of domestic assault or driving under the influence allegations, the UCMJ and military authorities may still be able to initiate separate proceedings, independent of the outcomes in civilian court.
Many different rules and regulations apply to military personnel as well. This includes the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a federal law that applies to criminal offenses involving active-duty service members. These laws are very different from civilian laws. That’s why it’s critical that you have a military criminal defense lawyer familiar with the UCMJ and other unique military rules and regulations handling your legal case.
Why hire a civilian defense lawyer for a military case?
Many members of the military who are charged with crimes choose not to hire a civilian lawyer because a free lawyer is automatically appointed to represent them by the military. However, simply going with the appointed lawyer can be a serious mistake, for two reasons.
First, in most cases, a military lawyer will only be appointed to represent you once you have been formally charged. If you are simply under investigation, military defense attorneys are probably too busy to talk to you. However, you can speak with a civilian attorney at any time, even before you are formally charged – and getting legal representation right away can make a big difference in the outcome.
Second, you want an attorney who has the experience and resources you need. To be clear, there are excellent appointed attorneys in the military – but there are also many who have limited experience or limited time to plan your legal defense. Military attorneys also still operate within the chain of command. Because so much is on the line, you need to be comfortable with your choice of attorney. It’s always worth at least discussing your options with a private lawyer instead of simply relying on the appointed counsel.
Do military courts have jurisdiction for criminal cases outside a military base?
Yes. As briefly explained above, a military court has jurisdiction over most criminal cases involving active-duty service members, even if the criminal charges involve off-base conduct. Most civilian courts have no jurisdiction over criminal violations involving the UCMJ.
What are common military criminal offenses?
Criminal charges (often called offenses in a military court) involving military personnel include:
- Conduct Unbecoming an Officer, as defined in Article 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
- Drug Offenses, including a positive urinalysis drug test result.
- DUI Charge
- Sex crimes, including rape and sexual assault.
- Fraternization, legal term for romantic relationship with another service member as defined in Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
- Assault and Battery
- Domestic Violence
Penalties for military criminal offense conviction
Depending on your criminal offense, the UCMJ includes nine different types of penalties depending on the criminal offense:
- Formal reprimand, which is similar to a warning
- Financial fine
- Forfeiture of military pay
- Hard labor without confinement
- Confinement in a military correctional facility
- Reduction in rank or military grade
- Dishonorable discharge, also sometimes called punitive discharge
- Restricted to a specific area on base, often with extra assigned duties
- Death penalty
Types of courts-martial
The term court-martial can be confusing. Sometimes, people use court-martial as a verb to refer to the process of military personnel being punished for committing various offenses. However, court-martial also refers to the actual trial to decide whether an active service member violated the UCMJ.
In general, there are three different types of court-martial proceedings:
- Summary court-martial – Military legal trial for minor offenses. These cases are decided by one person who acts as a military court judge.
- Special court-martial – Military trial for more serious offenses that can result in a confinement of less than 12 months, which is similar to the penalties for civilian misdemeanor criminal charges. These cases are decided by a military court judge and a minimum of three military officers.
- General court-martial – Military trial for the most serious offenses, which can result in confinement for 1 year or more, which is similar to the penalties for civilian felony criminal charges. A military judge and a minimum of five military officers rule on such legal cases.
Many court-martial decisions receive an automatic review by a military Court of Criminal Appeals. This includes decisions that result in a dismissal, punitive discharge, confinement of 1 year or more, or death penalty. In addition, active duty service members can request an additional review in some cases by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which is located in Washington, DC.
Military bases in Virginia Beach, VA area
- Naval Air Station Oceana – NAS Oceana, a United States Navy Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Virginia that is home to 250 military aircraft and more than 20,000 military personnel and family members.
- Naval Air Station Oceana Dam Neck Annex – NAS Oceana Dam Neck Annex in Virginia Beach, Virginia provides specialized training and support services in response to fleet requirements.
- Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek–Fort Story – Operating base for Expeditionary Forces in the United States Navy's Atlantic Fleet.
Take strong legal action. Contact us
The stakes are high if you are an active-duty service member charged with a crime in Virginia. Don’t wait and see to find out what happens next. Take an active role in demanding justice. Contact our Norfolk law firm to learn more about your legal rights. Schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced Norfolk, VA military criminal defense attorneys. We can answer your questions, explain your options and get right to work on your legal case.
Our skilled trial lawyers have extensive courtroom experience and thoroughly understand the rules and regulations that apply to military criminal offenses. Whether you have been charged with a minor offense or you might be court-martialed or dishonorably discharged, you can count on our legal team to rise to the challenge.