Are Military Members Subject To The Same Levels Of Punishments As Civilians? How Are Penalties Determined In The Military?
Recent PostsThis case begins in 2011, when LaTasha Freeman, a civilian employee working as an administrative secretary on base in Afghanistan, was attacked by a bomb-sniffing dog named Kallie that had been brought on to locate hidden explosives along roadsides—one of...
Recent PostsChris: My name is Christopher Cazares. I am a military defense attorney. I represent members of the military accused of criminal behavior, worldwide, which are crimes against the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I travel all over the world in order to...
Recent PostsInterviewer: When someone active military gets into trouble or they’re accused of one or more crimes, what are the avenues available to them? Is there such a thing as a public defender? What can they do to get representation? Chris: When charges are...
Interviewer: If someone’s intoxicated and they commit some kind of crime, does that help lessen the punishments they are subject to or does it make it worse with the theory that they didn’t really know what they were doing and they were not supposed to be drinking anyway?
Military Members Are Subject to Command-Driven Punishment, as opposed to Civilians Who Are Subject to Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
Chris Cazares: Military members who commit infractions are subject to command-driven punishment. Although it’s called “The Uniform Code of Military Justice,” it’s not the uniform punishment system.
In the federal system, the United States District Court, they have what is called “mandatory minimums,” where every offender, regardless of their life prior to the crime, essentially are treated the same.
In a lot of ways, it’s extremely unfair because you’ll see people who are very good people just get hammered by the penalties imposed by the law.
What you’ll see in the military are command-drive penalties. Punishment starts with the commander.
In the Military, Punishments Dispensed by Commanders Can Be Subjective Based upon the Personality of the Officer Imposing the Sentence
At a lower level, at something other than a court-martial, a punishment could be imposed by a military member’s first-line supervisor. If it is a serious offense subject to non-judicial punishment or a preferral of charges, that’s going to be a command-driven decision.
The interesting part about that is from base-to-base, from service-to-service, from unit-to-unit, it’s going to change, because the personalities are changing.
You may have an infantry unit in the Marine Corps that has a commander that is very strict disciplinarian. Somebody would be subject to a non-judicial punishment for losing some of their gear.
Whereas, perhaps you have an Air Force member who is caught underage drinking, which is a crime, but they’ll get a letter of reprimand.
Really, it’s interesting, because what does dictate the punishment are the personality of the commander and the needs of the service at that time. It’s really hard to predict.
Does the Number of Incidents of Misconduct Vary between Different Branches of the Military?
Interviewer: How about behaviors between the different branches of the military? Do you see that some are better behaved than others and tend to get themselves in trouble less?
There Are Fewer Incidents of Misconduct among Branches with Strict Entry Criteria, Such as the Air Force
Chris Cazares: Yes. Actually, I think that can follow the testing guidelines. For instance, the
Air Force has higher, generally higher testing ranges. They don’t accept as wide a pool of applicants as, say, does the Army.
The Army is a bigger service and its discipline has to be in accordance with the size of its force.
Smaller Branches of the Military Have Less Incidents of Misconduct
In the Army, there are individuals who had greater life struggles and are coming from different economic situations and you have people who are just not as societally acceptable or societally well-behaved. They have to, perhaps, accept riskier applicants in order to fill up their roles.
Larger Military Branches, Which Have to Maintain a Larger Unit Size, Tend to Impose Lesser Sentences on Its Members
Whereas in a different service, for instance the Air Force, you have less of a range. Therefore, there are a smaller pool of qualified applicants and an even smaller force. You’ll have less UCMJ, and the severity for which they treat crime could be drastically different.
For instance, in the Army, if the offense involves drug use, you may or may not be discharged. The form of punishment can change.
Members of the Air Force Are Subject to Mandatory Discharge Proceedings for Drug Use
In the Air Force, if you test positive for drug use, you are subject to a mandatory discharge process. You have to, at the very least, face discharge proceedings. For drug use, the Air Force probably prosecutes more drug use than any other service.
Whereas, in the Army, if they were to prosecute all the drug use that goes on, it would cripple the system, because they just have so many soldiers, and they just have so many abuses, that they can’t take the time to prosecute those kinds of cases.
Are Civilians and Military Members Both Subject to Involvement in Criminal Misconduct when They Are Less than 40 Years Old?
Interviewer: How about as people rise in rank? Are there less incidents of misconduct among the officers?
In Civilian Life, Statistically Criminal Misconduct Is Attributed to People between the Ages of 18 and 34
Chris Cazares: Statistically, between the ages of 18 and 34, you’re going to see more criminal misconduct among civilians.
Military Members Who Commit Criminal Misconduct Are Likely to be between 18 to 23 Years Old
What you will see in the military though, is that criminal timeline is shorter. As opposed to 18 to 34, it may more likely be 18 to 23, because employment stays high, education continues to grow, family grows. The rate at which you become responsible is a lot greater.
Drug-Related Offenses Are Punished with More Severity in the Military
Interviewer: So in the military, essentially people are forced to grow up and be more mature much faster. Are drug-related offenses punished differently from alcohol offenses in the military?
Chris Cazares: Alcohol incident may end up in an LOR or an Article 15 or a Captain’s Mast, that’s kind of where it tops out, less some kind of aggravating circumstance, like a DUI or somebody getting hurt from the alcohol, but alcohol alone will usually end at the 15.
Whereas, for drug offenses, it usually starts at the 15 and, depending on the amount or the severity of the crime, it only gets greater.
You’ll see all the way from an Article 15 or Captain’s Mast all the way to general court-martial. By-and-large, drug-related offenses are treated differently, because they are considered a more serious offense.
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