First things first, from our entire law office, thank you for your service. If you are reading this post, it means that you are serving (or have a loved one who is serving) and are facing punitive action. At the Law Office of Murphy and Price, we have dedicated the last few decades to providing criminal defense to the service members and their family members stationed in and around Colorado Springs, including Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, Air Force Academy, Buckley Air Force Base, or Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base.

If you are facing punitive action during your service, to include a simple company-grade Article 15 or a court-martial coupled with federal civilian charges, you have the right to obtain your own counsel. As you have already been advised, you have access to a free Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) lawyer. You can think of a JAG lawyer as a public defender on the civilian side. Your military-issued defense attorney has the skills and knowledge to aggressively defend you, so if you choose to put your future in their hands, you can rest assured you have access to talented resources. However, as with public defenders, there are several downsides to only having an issued defender on your side. For one thing, your issued lawyer has no stock in the outcome of your case, nor do they have the time to be fully invested in your case. In today’s post, we will offer five additional reasons that you should consider hiring your own criminal defense lawyer when you are facing military (or civilian) charges.

In exploring these reasons, it is important to understand that you can have your military issued JAG lawyer, your civilian appointed public defender, and your criminal defense attorney all working together to build your case and provide your defense.

1. You and your family deserve it.

We are not saying that a JAG lawyer or public defender cannot offer you and your family the defense you and your family deserve. What we are saying is that you and your family deserve the most aggressive defense possible. At the Law Offices of Murphy and Price, our duty stations have not changed, so we have not had to learn, but instead, we have seen the changes and evolved with them. We have been established and practicing in the Colorado Springs area for nearly a quarter-century. Our legal team has the skills, abilities, and local connections to offer you the best defense.

2. Lack of command involvement or reporting.

Your JAG lawyer is supposed to be an impartial third party and the same attorney-client privilege still applies. However, as you are already well aware, in the military, there is no distinction between work and life balance. Your command is authorized to seek updates and be kept in the loop as requested. Additionally, your command is essentially playing the prosecution, judge, and jury — unless, of course, it has gone to a court-martial.

Your hired criminal defense attorney has no obligation or relationship with your command and is exclusively on your side. Not only does this put more service members at ease, allowing them to be more forthcoming and build a better defense, but it also helps other witnesses or those involved in the case at ease, knowing their command is not involved and their daily lives will remain uninfluenced.

3. Your benefits depend on it.

For many service members, it is understood that at some point in your military career, you will likely face an Article 15 or some other form of punitive action. This is likely due to the fact that your entire life, whether on or off-duty, is subject to command involvement. No part of your life is divided between work and private life. For some, a minor Article 15 is taken quietly as “a part of the game.” However, this may negatively impact your career. If the Article 15 or court-martial results in a bar for reenlistment, separation from service, or results in an early retirement or dishonorable discharge, all of these things can significantly impact your benefits and pay.

One common way your benefits may be affected immediately is via forfeiture of pay or reduction in rank. On a grander scale, if the punitive action results in the end of your military service, you and your family may forfeit ongoing benefits. For instance, an “Other Than Honorable (OTH)” discharge results in the inability to use the GI Bill benefits and some healthcare benefits, depending on the sub-designation. For a court-martial that results in a “Bad Conduct Discharge” or “Dishonorable” discharges, all Veteran’s benefits are forfeited, including disability compensation, retirement, and healthcare is lost, regardless of how long you have served.

4. Your service depends on it.

Your Article 15 or court-martial will carry along with you for your entire career. The best-case scenario is a company-grade Article 15 that will result in extra duty and some forfeiture of pay or even a reduction in rank. Worst-case scenario, you will suffer the humiliation of reduction of several ranks, relief of duty, and a laundry list of flags and restrictions, to include mandatory reclassification of your occupation. You may be barred from certain schools, opportunities for advancement, or reenlistment. The future of your military career depends on the outcome of your case and the ability of your criminal defense attorney to represent you and your rights.

5. There is life after your service.

As we discussed in No. 3, when you are discharged from the military, what happened during your service still follows you. The discharge rating will affect future civilian employment and your ability to purchase a firearm. Many employers request DD-214 and will look at block 24 to assess the character of your service and use it to determine employment eligibility. While OTH can be explained, do you want to start your new career on trial? You will not be eligible for federal service. Federal law prohibits the sale of a firearm to anyone who has been dishonorably discharged and security clearances will not be granted.

It is important to remember that your military service is a short blip in the grand scheme of your life, but the outcome of your military career will heavily impact life after your service. Don’t let the impact be a negative one, get the criminal defense you deserve.

At the Law Offices of Murphy and Price, our legal team has called Colorado Springs home for more than 25 years. We have been zealously defending service members and their families in military settings and state and federal courts. Our defense attorneys have experience with military law and can offer you the defense you deserve. We would be honored to defend you, your family, and your military service. Contact us for your complimentary consultation today.

Visit our military pages for more information:

Military Court Martials
Military Practice