NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED FEDERAL LAWYERS
Last Updated on: 7th October 2023, 04:32 pm
South Carolina Military Criminal Lawyers: Defending Service Members in Court Martial and Military Justice Cases
Military service members in South Carolina face unique challenges when dealing with criminal charges. The military has its own justice system, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which handles crimes committed by service members. This means that military personnel accused of crimes are not tried in civilian courts – instead, they face courts martial and military tribunals. Having an experienced military criminal defense lawyer can make all the difference.
This article provides an overview of military criminal law in South Carolina and how a dedicated defense attorney can protect the rights of accused service members. We’ll cover common crimes charged, the military justice process, potential consequences, and legal defenses. Our goal is to educate service members and their families so they know their rights and can make informed decisions if facing military criminal charges in South Carolina.
Common Military Crimes in South Carolina
Some of the most common crimes service members face court martial for in South Carolina include:
- Drug offenses – Use, possession, distribution, etc. of illegal drugs
- Sexual assault – Rape, sexual abuse, harassment, etc.
- Domestic violence – Physical abuse, threats against a spouse/partner
- Absent without leave (AWOL) or desertion
- Disrespecting an officer or disobeying orders
- Larceny – Theft of military property
These are just a few examples. The military justice system handles any crime committed by active duty personnel under the UCMJ. Offenses unique to the military, like going AWOL or disobeying orders, can only be charged under the UCMJ.
How Military Justice Works in South Carolina
When a service member is accused of a crime in South Carolina, here is how the military justice process typically works:
- Investigation – Military police or command investigates the allegations
- Charges – If evidence warrants, the member’s command prefers charges under the UCMJ
- Article 32 Hearing – A preliminary hearing to determine if a court martial is warranted
- Court Martial – The military equivalent of a civilian criminal trial
- Sentencing – Punishments can include jail time, demotions, discharge, etc.
- Appeals – The member can appeal the verdict or sentence through the military courts system
At any point in the process, an experienced military defense lawyer can stand up for the accused service member’s rights and negotiate for a favorable outcome. In many cases, charges can be lessened or even dismissed with effective representation.
Consequences of a Military Conviction
The punishments handed down by military courts can be severe and follow a service member for life. Potential consequences include:
- Prison time in a military confinement facility
- Dishonorable or bad conduct discharge – Permanently mars military record
- Loss of rank/pay
- Barred from reenlisting
- Sex offender registration
- Felony conviction on civilian record
These outcomes can destroy military careers and impact civilian lives long after completion of sentence. An experienced court martial lawyer will fight to avoid or minimize punishments.
Defending Against Military Criminal Charges
South Carolina military defense attorneys use a variety of legal defenses to fight court martial charges, such as:
- Unlawful command influence – When a senior officer unfairly forces prosecution
- Unlawful search and seizure – When evidence was obtained illegally
- Self-defense – Legally protecting oneself from harm
- Lack of criminal intent – The accused did not mean to break the law
- Mistaken identity – The wrong person is being prosecuted
- Mental health defenses – The accused has a condition impairing judgement
An experienced lawyer will carefully examine the facts of the case to build the strongest defense strategy. In many cases, charges can be dismissed before a case ever goes to trial due to rights violations or lack of evidence.
Why Hire a Military Lawyer?
Military cases are complex and very different than civilian courts. Here are key reasons to hire a civilian military defense attorney rather than rely on a free military lawyer (JAG):
- They are independent from the military chain of command
- They have specialized expertise in military law and procedure
- They can build attorney-client privilege and confidentiality
- They have freedom to fully investigate the case and interview witnesses
- They can negotiate aggressively with military prosecutors
While JAG lawyers do their best, they ultimately work for the military. Civilian military attorneys are the best choice for an unbiased, vigorous defense in a court martial case.
Leading South Carolina Military Defense Law Firms
If you or a loved one are facing military criminal allegations in South Carolina, it’s critical to have an experienced defense lawyer. Here are some of the top-rated military law firms in the state:
- Gonzalez & Waddington – Highly rated nationally with offices in Columbia, SC. Defends courts martial worldwide. Learn more.
- Hanzel Law Firm – Based in Mt. Pleasant. Attorney Michael Hanzel is a military veteran and former JAG. Learn more.
- Crisp and Associates – Army court martial defense firm based in Columbia, SC. Free consultations. Learn more.
The lawyers at these firms have the experience, skills, and dedication needed to build the strongest possible defense in your military case.
What to Do If You’re Facing Court Martial
Here are important steps to take if you are a South Carolina service member dealing with military criminal allegations:
- Remain silent – Do not admit to anything or make statements before consulting with counsel.
- Hire an attorney – Retain experienced civilian military defense counsel as early as possible.
- Follow advice – Listen to your lawyer’s guidance at every stage.
- Cooperate – Help your attorney build the best case so they can defend you.
- Stay positive – Keep faith in your lawyer’s efforts to protect your rights and future.
With an aggressive defense and the best possible representation, many service members are able to avoid convictions or receive lenient sentences. Don’t go through the military justice system alone – protect yourself with counsel.
Why South Carolina Military Defense Lawyers Can Help
Navigating the military justice system and confronting criminal allegations is scary. South Carolina military defense attorneys bring critical benefits to the table for accused service members, such as:
- Guidance on your rights under military law
- Thorough investigation of the allegations and evidence
- Aggressive defense strategies to fight the charges
- Negotiating with military prosecutors for a favorable outcome
- Presenting the strongest case possible at trial if necessary
- Ensuring fair procedures are followed throughout the process
- Avoiding or minimizing potential jail time and punishments
In addition, the emotional support and advice of a dedicated lawyer can help relieve stress and anxiety during the ordeal. Defending against military criminal allegations is extremely difficult without experienced legal counsel.
Protect Your Future with a Top Military Defense Lawyer
Military service members in South Carolina deserve the strongest possible defense against criminal charges under the UCMJ. The consequences of convictions can ruin lives and derail careers. Fight back by hiring an aggressive and knowledgeable military defense lawyer to protect your rights and future. They have the expertise to build the best case and achieve the best possible outcome against court martial charges.
Don’t leave your fate in the hands of military prosecutors or inexperienced counsel. Contact a top rated South Carolina military defense attorney today for help protecting everything you’ve worked for in your service. With your freedom and career hanging in the balance, you need the best lawyer you can get – and you deserve nothing less.