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Last Updated on: 7th October 2023, 04:29 pm
New Mexico Military Criminal Lawyers: Defending Service Members and Veterans
Military service members and veterans in New Mexico face unique legal challenges. As a military town, New Mexico is home to several major military installations. Many service members transition to living as civilians in New Mexico after completing their military service. This article provides an overview of military criminal law in New Mexico and how criminal defense attorneys can assist service members and veterans.
Military Bases in New Mexico
New Mexico has several major military bases and facilities:
- Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque
- Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis
- Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo
- White Sands Missile Range
- Melrose Air Force Range
With large populations of active duty personnel, military retirees, and veterans, New Mexico communities must be prepared to address legal issues unique to the military population.
Military Criminal Charges
Military personnel are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The UCMJ outlines various criminal offenses that are illegal under military law. Some of the most common UCMJ violations include:
- Disrespecting an officer
- Disobeying orders
- Drug use/possession
- Drunk driving/DUI
In addition, service members can face charges in civilian courts for offenses committed off base. Military personnel accused of a crime have the right to hire civilian criminal defense counsel to represent them.
Unique Aspects of Military Law
While military law shares similarities with civilian law, there are some key differences that military defense lawyers must understand:
- The UCMJ has its own set of criminal statutes.
- Military trials do not use juries – cases are heard by a judge or panel of officers.
- Rules of evidence are more relaxed in military court.
- Punishments like demotions, loss of pay, and extra duties have no civilian equivalent.
- Commanding officers have a central role in military justice.
A skilled military criminal lawyer will leverage their experience with military law and procedure to build the strongest defense for a service member or veteran.
Punishments Under the UCMJ
If convicted at a court martial, service members face punishments unique to military law. These can include:
- Reduction in rank/demotion
- Loss of pay
- Extra duties
- Dishonorable discharge
- Loss of benefits
In serious cases, punishments can also include years of confinement. Experienced military defense lawyers understand the long-term consequences of a conviction, and will fight to get charges dismissed or reduced.
Transition to Civilian Life
Many service members choose New Mexico as the place to start their post-military lives. However, the transition can pose legal challenges. Some issues that veterans may face include:
- Finding employment and using military skills in civilian jobs
- Accessing healthcare through the VA system
- Obtaining disability benefits for service-related conditions
- Adapting to civilian culture and relationships
- PTSD, TBI, depression, and suicide
- Homelessness and poverty
- Substance abuse and addiction
Veterans who encounter legal troubles related to these issues need compassionate legal counsel familiar with the struggles veterans face. Knowledge of veteran culture, military law, and VA resources can help attorneys provide effective representation.
Veterans Treatment Courts
Many jurisdictions in New Mexico have established Veterans Treatment Courts. These specialty courts seek alternatives to incarceration for veterans, leveraging mental health and substance abuse counseling tailored to veterans. The goal is rehabilitation rather than punishment. Military defense lawyers play a crucial role in connecting veteran clients to Veterans Courts and treatment programs.
Finding the Right Military Lawyer
So where can service members and veterans find dedicated military criminal defense counsel? Here are some tips:
- Look for lawyers with specific experience in military law – ideally former JAG officers.
- Find someone familiar with military culture and issues veterans face.
- See if the lawyer has handled cases similar to yours.
- Ask about experience negotiating with military prosecutors.
- Inquire about knowledge of alternative military punishments.
- Look for compassion and commitment to service members.
Don’t settle for just any criminal lawyer. Hire counsel with the skills and experience to tackle the unique complexities of military law. The consequences are too high to risk hiring an attorney unfamiliar with the military justice system.
What a Military Lawyer Can Do
So what exactly can an experienced military defense attorney do for a service member or veteran facing UCMJ charges? Here are some of the most important services they provide:
- Advise on military law – Explain the military justice process and potential outcomes.
- Negotiate with military prosecutors – Work to get charges dismissed or reduced.
- Gather evidence and witnesses – Thoroughly investigate the case.
- Prepare a strong defense – Identify procedural issues and build defense arguments.
- Provide aggressive representation – Fight to get the best possible result at trial.
- Counsel on appeals – Appeal convictions through the military court system.
For veterans in civilian courts, the lawyer can assist with diversion programs, reductions in charges, and alternative sentencing. The goal is minimizing long-term consequences of a conviction.
Common Crimes and Defenses
Military defense lawyers regularly handle UCMJ violations like drug possession, assault, AWOL, and disobeying orders. Here is an overview of typical defenses used:
Drug possession, use, and distribution charges are common in the military. Typical defenses include:
- Illegal search and seizure
- Chain of custody errors
- Incorrect drug testing procedures
- Lack of knowledge/intent
Allegations of assault against fellow service members, civilians, or officers must be carefully challenged. Common defenses include:
- Misidentification of the Here is a 3000 word article in HTML format about New Mexico Military Criminal Lawyers:
New Mexico Military Criminal Lawyers: Defending Service Members and Veterans
Military service members and veterans in New Mexico face unique legal challenges. As a military community, we need lawyers who understand the complexities of military law and can provide strong legal defenses. This article provides an overview of military criminal law in New Mexico and discusses the valuable role of military criminal defense attorneys.
The Military Justice System
The military has its own justice system seperate from civilian courts. This is laid out in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which governs crimes committed by service members on or off duty1. Some key aspects of military law in New Mexico:
- The UCMJ applies to all branches – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and National Guard troops under federal command
- Military commanders play a central role in the military justice system
- Courts-martial are criminal trials conducted by senior military officers, not professional judges or juries
- Punishments under the UCMJ can include fines, demotions, confinement, and dishonorable discharge
This separate military justice system can make defending service members complex. Experienced military criminal lawyers are essential.
Common Military Crimes in New Mexico
Some of the most common UCMJ violations that New Mexico military lawyers defend include:
- Drug offenses – Possession, use, or distribution of illegal drugs
- AWOL/Desertion – Being absent without leave or abandoning duty
- Assault – Physical attacks or violence against others
- Larceny/Fraud – Theft of military property or funds
- Adultery – Extramarital affairs, prohibited under UCMJ
- Disobedience – Failure to follow orders from superiors
These are just a few examples of crimes military personnel in New Mexico face court-martial for. Any activity that undermines discipline and readiness can potentially lead to UCMJ charges.
Unique Rules of Military Law
In addition to specific UCMJ offenses, military criminal cases have unique rules:
- Command influence – Commanders have power over criminal cases, raising unlawful command influence</a