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I’m in the Military. How Will a Florida Arrest Impact My Position?

When you’re in the military, you’re duty bound by a strict code of moral and ethical conduct in both your professional and personal life. You are expected to represent the best America has to offer. An arrest on civilian criminal statutes - local, state, or federal law - is considered a direct and serious violation of that code.

As our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers can explain, in addition to the penalties that may be imposed by a civilian criminal court if you’re convicted, it may impact your military career in the following ways:

  • You could be denied admission. If you are not yet in the military, but wish to apply, an arrest can be an impediment, though it likely depends on the circumstances. You will be asked about your criminal record when you apply. If you aren’t honest about your past, you could later be discharged for fraudulent admission. If you do answer honestly, you might be denied entry altogether. People with prior criminal records can request a waiver to be admitted anyway. However, it’s always at the military’s discretion and will depend heavily on the circumstances of the offense.
  • You could be demoted. Service members who violate their branch’s strict code of conduct could be sanctioned with demotion in rank. You could also be denied future promotions on the basis of your civilian arrest/conviction.
  • You have wages reduced. If you’re sentenced to 30 days or more in jail (but less than 1 year), you could well find yourself bumped down a pay grade.
  • You could lose security clearance. Depending on the nature of the allegations and the level of your security clearance, an arrest or conviction could result in the military reducing your security clearance - or stripping you of it altogether. This is true even for offenses as seemingly minor as underage alcohol possession or unlawful possession of a small amount of controlled substances.
  • You could face a court-martial. It’s not considered double jeopardy to be tried for the same charge in a state civilian court and military court-martial. As noted by the U.S. Department of Defense, investigations of serious offenses are usually conducted by an internal criminal investigative agency, such as the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command. Lesser offenses will typically be investigated by military or security police investigators. Minor offenses may be pursued at the discretion of the commanding officer. Before any charge is sent to a general courts-martial, an Article 32 investigation must be held (akin to a civilian grand jury investigation). At its conclusion, a recommendation is made about whether to pursue charges. Military courts follow federal rules of procedure, but the proof burden for crimes is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • You could be dismissed. If you’re convicted on serious charges, it could result in an administrative involuntary discharge from the military. What’s more, that discharge would be classified as dishonorable - which means you lose current and future benefits, such as your health insurance and pension. It’s worth noting that in the military, civilian charges don’t necessarily need to be felonies to be considered “serious.” It will depend heavily on the circumstances, but service members have been dismissed for offenses like domestic violence, breach of the peace, theft, etc.

Civilian convictions may have more of a potential impact on your military career than an arrest (for which you are presumed innocent until found guilty). That’s yet another reason it’s so important to hire a qualified Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer to represent you in state criminal matters - even if they seem relatively minor.

Other Considerations for Service Members Arrested in Florida

There are a few additional considerations unique to service members facing criminal charges in Florida.

For one thing, if you’re in good standing with the military, you may be eligible for legal counsel through the legal assistance office. It does mean that you’ll be alerting your superiors to the charges, but it’s likely they’d find out anyway. Depending on your salary, you might also be eligible for monetary assistance to help with your legal fees. Typically single E-3 and below soldiers and below qualify, as do married E-4 and below soldiers.

Another way in which the proceedings in your Florida criminal case may vary from a civilian facing the same charges is the potential for postponement due to active duty assignments. Your military commitments are almost always going to take priority over court dates. That doesn’t mean you can just skip out on your obligations to show up. You need to make sure your South Florida criminal defense attorney is up-to-date with your military orders and schedule.

Bottom line: If you’re in the military - or you’re hoping to be one day - and you’re arrested on Florida criminal charges, it is extremely important that you hire a highly-skilled local criminal defense lawyer.

If you have been arrested in South Florida, call The Ansara Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011.

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