Many people can easily understand that military service members arrested on military property will be arrested by military police and tried in the military judicial system. And, civilians arrested on the civilian property will be arrested by civilian law enforcement and tried in the local or federal court system. However, the understanding gets a little muddled when a service member is accused of breaking the law off-post or when civilians are charged with a crime on a military installation. To help you better understand, follow along in today’s post as we clarify these situations and the jurisdiction each holds.

At the Law Offices of Murphy and Price, we have decades of experience defending both military service members and civilians facing charges in military court, state court, or the federal docket. Regardless of your situation, contact us for legal defense you can count on in the Colorado Springs area.

I am Stationed on Fort Carson, But Was Arrested in Colorado Springs

Military service members are held to a higher legal standard than civilians. Service members are held to all state and local laws, in addition to being held to federal laws and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Understanding how this works can look something like a giant, algorithmic flow chart. In simple terms, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen are held to whatever law is most conservative. For instance, even though Colorado law permits recreational marijuana use, federal law and UCMJ strictly forbid it. So, regardless of where a Soldier or Airmen is located, they may be arrested for using marijuana in any capacity. Read more about this specific situation in our previous post.

Here’s a simplified breakdown of what jurisdiction service members fall under.

  • Arrested off-post, service members can be tried in both civilian and military court.
  • Arrested on-post, the service member can face military and/or federal charges.

As a service member, when you joined the military, you signed in your contract that you acknowledged that you were subject to UCMJ. However, it is not commonly explained to service members that they still fall under the jurisdiction of local and state law as well. So, something that may be perfectly legal under UCMJ may not be in the local area. For instance, in a previous post, we discussed the age of consent and how you may think you are in the right because you followed UCMJ, while it may still violate local law and you may still find yourself facing charges.

It is important to note here that, yes, as a service member, you can find yourself facing charges under both UCMJ in addition to the appropriate civilian jurisdiction and serve both sentences without it being considered double-jeopardy. For more information on this, refer to our previous, more in-depth post regarding dual sovereignty.

For service members, whether you are on- or off-post or you violate local, state, federal, or UCMJ laws, you may find yourself facing charges. Understand your rights and get the defense you need with a legal team that has experience defending the accused in all court systems.

Can I Be Arrested on Fort Carson?

Another gray area and a common misconception is that civilians are only obligated to local, state, and federal law, where it applies. However, posted at the entrance of any military installation is a sign that states that anyone entering the post is subject to installation regulations. Most posts are closed or at least require guests to check in, where these regulations are available in written form. Regardless of whether or not you understood these laws of not, you may be arrested if you are found to be violating them. For infractions that violate installation regulation, but not state or federal law, you may not be facing time, but can be permanently banned from the installation. In addition, for illegal criminal acts that violate both installation policy and local law, military police can arrest you, but you may face charges in the federal magistrate court with jurisdiction over the military installation.

For instance, driving while under the influence or shoplifting are illegal under installation regulation and local law. If you are accused of such crimes on Fort Carson, military police can arrest you and you will face charges in the federal court system in Colorado Springs. However, possession of marijuana is legal under Colorado law, but illegal under federal law. Since Fort Carson, Peterson AFB, and other local military installations are federal property, you can face charges under federal law whether or not you are civilian or military.

We hope today’s post helped to clarify some of the questions you may have about the charges you or someone you know are facing. If you have been arrested on- or off-post as either a service member or a civilian by military police, local law enforcement or a government agency (OSI, CID, NCIS, DEA, FBI, ATF, etc) contact the experienced legal team at Murphy and Price, LLP.