Why shouldn't I just use the court-appointed defense attorney?
You are perfectly entitled to let the court-appointed defense counsel represent your case, and for that matter, you can even choose to represent yourself. The primary reason you should hire private representation, however, has to do with the fact that most of the defense attorneys who are available through court appointment are tremendously overworked and typically do not have anywhere near the amount of time available to properly investigate the case, let alone to meet with you in person and maintain contact throughout the process. If you are serious about achieving the best possible results in your case, it is in your best interests to hire a civilian military lawyer who has the necessary time and resources available to effectively fight for you.
What are my rights as a service member?
Although the members of the United States Armed Forces are subject to certain constraints and are held to higher expectations of discipline than are ordinary civilians, they still enjoy the full rights and protections which are provided for under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, in addition to the provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). For example, you have a right to remain silent and to refuse to testify against yourself, a right against searches which are not supported by probable cause or a warrant, and a right to consult with an attorney and to have your attorney present during questioning.
What are the different types of court-martial?
The UCMJ provides three different degrees of courts-martial, each one of which is used to hear charges of increasing severity. The lowest level is the Summary Court-Martial, which hears relatively minor offenses and which is capable of imposing maximum penalties of 30 days in confinement and a pay grade reduction to E-1. The next level up is the Special Court-Martial, which is heard by a judge and a jury of three, and which can impose up to a year of confinement, forfeiture of two-thirds of pay for up to a year and bad-conduct discharge. The most serious offenses are heard at General Courts-Martial, and the maximum penalty available at this level is the death sentence, though more commonly a conviction will result in a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge, dismissal or confinement.
What if I was already given a punitive or other-than-honorable discharge?
Everyone who enlists in the Armed Forces hopes to end his or her career with an honorable discharge, but in reality this does not always work out. If you have been given an undesirable administrative discharge or even certain types of punitive discharge, the fact may continue to follow you as a major stigma that has the potential to restrict your future career opportunities. Fortunately, an attorney from our team may be able to help you to improve the situation by petitioning the Discharge Review Board for an upgrade of status.
How should I handle an AWOL or charges of desertion?
If you have gone AWOL and have been absent for 30 days or longer, there may be a federal warrant out for your arrest. You could at any time be arrested, such as if you are pulled over for a traffic violation and the officer discovers your warrant upon looking you up in the system. The longer you wait, the worse the situation will become. Don't expect the matter to work itself out on its own. Contact McCormack & McCormack now for a free, confidential case evaluation so that we can discuss the situation and determine a strategy for clearing up the charges. By tackling the problem head-on, we may not only be able to shield you against an arrest, but we may even be able to help you secure an administrative discharge.