Where Do Most Crimes Committed by Members of the Military Occur?
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Interviewer: Are most of the crimes that you see, are they committed on bases or are they committed just out in the world, when these military members are not on the base? It doesn’t matter where the crime happens?
Military Personnel Are Charged with Crimes That Occur On and Off Base
Chris: Right. I think it’s an intuitive answer. Charges involving money, military equipment, stealing, larceny, theft, all of those scenarios where you’re stealing government property and you’re charged with an offense, you’re going to see that occurring on the base.
Drug offenses you’re going to see occurring off base. With sexual assault, you’ll see it occurring both on and off base. Frankly, a lot of it happens on base, because that’s where the service member resides. You encounter combination of off and on base crimes.
Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Can Differ Depending on Which Agency Is Prosecuting
Interviewer: Does it make any difference if the offenses on or off base? Is it considered more serious if the crime occurs on government property?
Chris: Depending on the jurisdiction that you’re in, it can be favorable to be off-base or it can be favorable to be on base. Obviously, if you had to choose between the US Attorney’s office prosecuting you and the local base office, you’re going to want the local base office for mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.
Crimes Committed Off Base Can Still Fall Under the Military’s Jurisdiction
Generally speaking, if the crime happens off base, the military will request jurisdiction for the case. If it happens on base, the military has the exclusive jurisdiction to the offense.
Interviewer: It sounds like there are several different levels. What happens if let’s say the military member in San Diego is in downtown San Diego and they commit some kind of a crime, for example, a DUI.
Certain States Are Less Likely to Grant the Military Jurisdiction to Prosecute Military Personnel for Crimes Committed Off Base
Would the city of San Diego in the state of California prosecute them or with the military have jurisdiction and prosecute them instead? Would both entities try to prosecute him or her?
Chris: No. It’s kind of a great question. It’s complicated question, too, because it depends on the city and the jurisdiction. For instance, California is less likely to grant jurisdiction, because they take points against your license for a DUI conviction.
Hawaii, on the other hand, doesn’t have a point system. If the military were to request jurisdiction, they would likely get it. However, prosecuting a DUI case isn’t something that most military bases want to do.
The Military Will Request Jurisdiction for Serious Charges Such as Sexual Assault
It’s actually something they do rarely. There has to be some aggravating circumstances. It has to rise, generally, above a misdemeanor for them to arrest or request jurisdiction from the state government. In the instance that the local authorities just drop the case then the military will handle it through what’s called “non-judicial punishment.”
If the charge is considered more serious, for example, sexual assault or possession of child pornography, for purposes of good order and discipline, you’ll more likely see the base request jurisdiction.
Interviewer: One scenario is that, let’s say the state punishes you and then the military will still render a non-judicial type of punishment, such as an administrative one? Or the military could request jurisdiction and then they’ll take care of the whole case?
Chris: That is correct in both instances.
Federal Crimes Are Rarely An Issue Among the Military Members
Interviewer: How is federal crime likely to be handled? Are federal crimes common among members of the military? Is any crime committed on government property considered a federal crime?
Chris: Typically, the U.S. Attorney General’s office in one of the federal courthouses would handle a high-level drug trafficking charge. Usually, you’re not going to see military members commit that crime.
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