Defending Those Who Defend Us®
  • Military Domestic Violence Defense

    It goes without saying that marriage can be tough. But military marriages are stressed more than most due to the young age of many couples, financial constraints, and overseas deployments. A conviction for domestic violence can have disastrous consequences on a service member’s military career and future.

    MJA has defended service members facing investigation, court-martial, and discipline for the most serious offenses under the UCMJ, including domestic violence. Contact one of our military defense lawyers today to learn more.

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    Domestic violence has become a hot button issue for the military in recent years. As a result, in 2019 Congress added a new charge to the UCMJ–Article 128b–which specifically targets the offense of domestic violence. Under Article 128b, a charge of domestic violence can be brought against any person who:

    • commits a violent offense against a spouse, intimate partner, or immediate family member of that person;
    • with intent to threaten or intimidate a spouse, intimate partner, or immediate family member of that person, commits a criminal offense against any person or property (including an animal);
    • with intent to threaten or intimidate a spouse, intimate partner, or immediate family member of that person, violates a protection order;
    • with intent to commit a violent offense against a spouse, intimate partner, or immediate family member of that person, violates a protection order; or
    • assaults a spouse, intimate partner, or immediate family member of that person by strangulation or suffocation.

    While historically a charge of domestic assault might have required evidence of an unlawful touching, this new law does not. Notably, Article 128b allows a service member to be convicted of domestic violence just for violating a protective order (assuming there is evidence that such violation was with the intent to threaten or intimidate an intimate partner).

    This is a major change in the law–and a very concerning one–given the frequency with which commanders issue protective orders. Service members who are under investigation or have been issued a “no contact” order should exercise extreme caution to ensure absolute compliance with such orders.

    Defenses

    Defenses to a domestic violence case depend on the individual circumstances. As with all offenses, the elements of the crime must first met. Additionally, service members always have an absolute right to self-defense and can reasonably protect themselves against an assault.

    Maximum Penalties

    Article 128b does not explicitly provide a maximum punishment for the crime of domestic violence. In such cases, military courts will look at similar offenses under the UCMJ to determine an appropriate punishment range.

    For comparison, charges under Article 128 (Assault) range from 3 months confinement for simple assault to up to 20 years confinement for aggravated assault perpetrated with the intent of committing other specified felonies.

    Lautenberg Amendment

    The Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968, effective 30 September 1996, makes it a felony for anyone convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms or ammunition. This law applies to all service members worldwide with a qualifying conviction.

    Qualifying domestic violence convictions may be in state or federal court, including special or general court-martial. Qualifying convictions do not include a summary court-martial conviction or the imposition of nonjudicial punishment under Article 15, UCMJ. A service member with a qualifying conviction can expect to be separated from the military.

    Protect Your Freedom and Your Military Future

    When your life, career, and future are on the line, you need an experienced law firm in your corner. The skilled and experienced attorneys at MJA have defended service members facing investigation, court-martial, and discipline for the most serious offenses under the UCMJ, including domestic violence. We will ensure that every avenue of defense is aggressively pursued on your behalf. Call us today at (843) 473-3665 for a free consultation.