Civilian vs. Military Jurisdiction

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Man arrested in a military jurisdiction

While most of us understand that there is a separate court for those in the military than for civilians, cases are not always so black and white. While it makes sense that a member of the military who is arrested on military property will be arrested by the military and tried in a military court, what happens when a military member is accused of breaking the law while off of military property? Or what happens when a civilian is charged with a crime on military installation? Here’s what you need to know about military jurisdiction, and how it is different from civilian jurisdiction.

It is important to understand that military members are held to a higher legal standard than civilians. Not only must they follow both state and local laws, but they must also abide by federal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice

  • If a military member is arrested on-post, they may face military and/or federal charges
  • If a military member is arrested off-post, they can be tried in both a civilian and military jurisdiction. 

Local and State Law vs. Federal Law and the Code of Military Justice

When comparing to civilians, military members are held to whatever laws are the strictest. For example, even though marijuana is legal in the state of Colorado, federal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice strictly prohibit it. Therefore, regardless of where a military member is located at the time, they may be arrested for using it. Alternately, things that are legal under local and state law, may not be legal under federal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. 

If a civilian is entering a military post, he or she is subject to martial regulations. These sites generally have signs indicating so, or written notice when you sign onto the base. It is not a defense to say that you did not understand the law; you may still be arrested. In these situations, if a civilian is only found to be in violation of installation regulations and not state or local laws, he or she may not receive punishment but may receive a lifetime ban from entering the installation.

There’s No Double Jeopardy in a Military Jurisdiction

It is also important to note that it is not considered to be double jeopardy to face charges in both the military (martial) jurisdiction as well as civilian jurisdiction, and face time for both convictions, as this is considered as dual sovereignty.

No matter where you are arrested – on- or off-post – one of the most important things that you can do for yourself is to understand your rights. That is why it is so important to seek a knowledgeable Colorado Martial Law Attorney who has experience with defending military members in both court systems.

Court-Martial Law Helps Those Who Are Facing Charges in a Military Jurisdiction

If you or a loved one has been charged with an allegation of misbehavior and must face a court-martial, are under investigation, or are seeking to appeal the court’s decision, the attorneys in the Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC can help. We are proud to serve our military members, who sacrifice so much for each of us. We will work to get your charge or penalty lowered and in some cases, even dismissed. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us today!

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