24/7 call for a free consultation 212-300-5196




When you’re facing a federal issue, you need an attorney whose going to be available 24/7 to help you get the results and outcome you need. The value of working with the Spodek Law Group is that we treat each and every client like a member of our family.

Client Testimonials



The BEST LAWYER ANYONE COULD ASK FOR!!! Todd changed our lives! He’s not JUST a lawyer representing us for a case. Todd and his office have become Family. When we entered his office in August of 2022, we entered with such anxiety, uncertainty, and so much stress. Honestly we were very lost. My husband and I felt alone. How could a lawyer who didn’t know us, know our family, know our background represents us, When this could change our lives for the next 5-7years that my husband was facing in Federal jail. By the time our free consultation was over with Todd, we left his office at ease. All our questions were answered and we had a sense of relief.

schedule a consultation


Military Criminal Lawyers

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized


Military Criminal Lawyers

Military criminal lawyers, also known as judge advocates or JAGs, specialize in defending service members accused of crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). They provide legal services related to military law, including courts-martial, non-judicial punishment, administrative separations, and appeals.

Overview of Military Justice System

The military justice system is separate from the civilian criminal justice system. It is governed by the UCMJ, which Congress enacted in 1950 to standardize disciplinary rules across all branches of the armed forces. The UCMJ details crimes unique to the military, such as desertion, as well as military-specific procedures like courts-martial.

All active duty service members are subject to the UCMJ at all times, even when off duty or on leave. The UCMJ applies worldwide, during peacetime and war. The military justice system serves to reinforce good order and discipline essential to the armed forces. It holds service members accountable for misconduct that could undermine the military mission.

Key Principles

  • Commander-driven: Commanders initiate courts-martial and impose non-judicial punishment per the UCMJ
  • Separate system: The military justice system is distinct from civilian criminal justice system
  • Worldwide application: The UCMJ applies to service members worldwide at all times
  • Portable jurisdiction: Service members remain subject to the UCMJ even after discharge for offenses committed on active duty


Courts-martial are criminal proceedings authorized by the UCMJ to determine a service member’s innocence or guilt for offenses under military law. Courts-martial can result in federal convictions and harsh sentences including confinement and punitive discharge. There are 3 types of courts-martial:

Summary Court-Martial

  • Not considered a federal criminal conviction
  • No jury, only a single commissioned officer presides
  • Can adjudicate minor misconduct punishable by up to 1 month confinement

Special Court-Martial

  • Federal criminal conviction
  • Military judge and jury of at least 3 service members
  • Can impose up to 1 year confinement and a bad conduct discharge

General Court-Martial

  • Felony-level court-martial and federal criminal conviction
  • Military judge and at least 5 jury members
  • Can impose any lawful sentence authorized by the UCMJ, including death (rarely used)

Courts-martial proceedings closely resemble civilian criminal trials. Defendants have the right to military counsel, to present a defense, and to confront witnesses. However, juries are composed of service members instead of civilians.

Non-Judicial Punishment

Non-judicial punishment allows commanders to discipline service members for minor misconduct without a court-martial. Often referred to as an “Article 15,” it can result in punishments like reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay, or extra duties. While non-judicial punishment is not a federal conviction, it leaves a permanent mark on a service record that can affect future promotions and assignments.

Role of the Military Criminal Lawyer

Military criminal lawyers serve as defense counsel to represent service members facing courts-martial or non-judicial punishment. They are judge advocates (JAGs) appointed to defend the accused. Duties include:

  • Analyzing charges and identifying defenses
  • Representing clients at Article 32 hearings (preliminary hearings)
  • Negotiating pretrial agreements to secure favorable terms
  • Gathering evidence and preparing cases for trial
  • Examining witnesses and arguing motions during courts-martial
  • Presenting clemency matters post-trial to reduce sentences
  • Filing appeals through the military justice system

In general courts-martial and other complex cases, service members may request an experienced military lawyer of their choice to serve as Individual Military Counsel (IMC). The IMC represents the client alongside the appointed defense counsel.

Civilian criminal defense attorneys can also represent clients in military courts if they meet qualifications to practice law before the military justice system. Unlike appointed military counsel, civilian lawyers are retained at the client’s expense.

Common Military Crimes and Defenses

Military criminal lawyers frequently handle cases involving the following offenses:

Absent Without Leave (AWOL) / Desertion

  • AWOL: Unauthorized absence from duty
  • Desertion: Absence with intent to remain away permanently
  • Defenses: Lack of intent, failure to advise of duties, mental condition

Assault / Battery

  • Assault: Threat to do bodily harm
  • Battery: Offensive touching / physical violence
  • Defenses: Self-defense, consent, accident, misidentification

Drug Offenses

  • Use/possession: Illegal drugs, prescription drug misuse
  • Distribution: Selling or transferring illegal drugs
  • Defenses: Lack of knowledge, false positives, entrapment

Drunk on Duty

  • Performing duties while impaired by alcohol
  • Defenses: Not impaired, improper testing procedures

Failure to Obey Order or Regulation

  • Violating or failing to obey authorized orders
  • Defenses: Order was unlawful, no duty to obey order

Sexual Assault

  • Sex offenses like rape, sexual assault, aggravated sexual contact
  • Defenses: Consent, mistake of fact, false allegations

Administrative Separations

In lieu of courts-martial, commanders can pursue administrative separation of service members for misconduct, especially cases involving minor offenses. Reasons include drug abuse, commission of a serious offense, pattern of misconduct, or fraudulent enlistment. There are three types of discharge:

  • Honorable: Separated per service regulations, professional performance satisfactory
  • General: Separated under honorable conditions, performance issues
  • Other Than Honorable (OTH): Separated under conditions other than honorable, misconduct was a contributing factor

OTH discharges can deprive veterans of benefits and carry a stigma. Military defense lawyers play a crucial role in administrative separations by arguing against discharge or for more favorable discharge categorizations.


Military verdicts and sentences can be appealed through the military justice system, not civilian courts. Post-trial appeals address legal errors that prejudiced the outcome or excessive sentencing based on the facts. Common grounds for appeal include:

  • Lack of jurisdiction
  • Unlawful command influence
  • Denial of speedy trial
  • Double jeopardy
  • Ineffective assistance of counsel
  • Insufficient evidence
  • Unduly harsh sentence

Military appellate lawyers submit appeals to the Air Force or Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, then the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), and finally the Supreme Court. Clemency requests to reduce sentences can also be submitted at various levels of command.

Why Hire a Military Lawyer?

Facing military justice action can utterly devastate a service member’s life and career. The consequences of courts-martial or punitive discharge are severe. A conviction affects benefits, future employment, and the ability to own firearms.

Military defense lawyers offer service members the best chance at securing the most favorable outcome possible. Their expertise with courts-martial, defenses, and appeals helps service members understand the process and protect their rights. They identify procedural issues, mount aggressive defenses, negotiate plea deals, and build effective sentencing cases. Their knowledge of the military justice system facilitates the strongest defense.

For service members navigating military justice action, a dedicated military defense lawyer provides critical advice and advocacy. They are an invaluable guide through the complex military legal system. Military criminal lawyers understand courts-martial inside and out, safeguard service members’ rights, and fight to achieve the best result.


The military justice system is unique in its procedures and offenses, requiring specialized legal knowledge to navigate. Military criminal defense lawyers are essential advocates for service members facing courts-martial, non-judicial punishment, or administrative separation. They analyze the government’s case, identify defenses, negotiate pleas, and challenge convictions on appeal. Their expertise in military law and relentless commitment to service members makes them indispensable allies in military justice proceedings. With so much on the line, service members deserve the strongest defense counsel available to protect their future.

Lawyers You Can Trust

Todd Spodek

Founding Partner

view profile



view profile


Associate Attorney

view profile



view profile



view profile



view profile



view profile

Criminal Defense Lawyers Trusted By the Media

schedule a consultation
Schedule Your Consultation Now