The United States military takes criminal investigations very seriously. As such, it only follows that it also takes any actions obstructing the investigation or trial process very seriously. When a U.S. military member takes specific actions that obstruct, delay, or impede these phases, they could be charged with obstruction of justice under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). While servicemembers may wish to protect their friends, attempting to do so could put their own career – and their life as they know it – in jeopardy.
Proving Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
As with any article of the UCMJ, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the elements of obstruction of military justice have occurred. Without this level of proof, a service member cannot be convicted of the crime. The elements of obstruction of justice under the UCMJ include:
- The accused wrongfully engaged in a certain act;
- The accused did so in the case of a certain person against whom the accused had reason to believe there were or would be criminal proceedings pending;
- The act was done with the intent to influence, impede, or otherwise obstruct the due administration of justice; and
- Under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.
Possible Penalties for an Obstruction of Justice Conviction
Put simply, if a service member wrongfully and intentionally interferes with an ongoing criminal investigation or pre-trial process, he or she may be convicted of obstructing justice. A service member who is convicted of obstruction of justice may face the following consequences:
- They may be dishonorably discharged from the military (losing your rank, title, and benefits);
- They may be forced to pay back reenlistment bonuses, which can amount to thousands of dollars; and/or
- They may face up to five years in prison.
Going up against a charge of obstruction of justice can be daunting. If convicted you could face financial strain, the end of your military career, and even the end of your freedom. With so much at stake, it’s imperative that you put yourself in the best position to be found not guilty. That’s why you should consult with a knowledgeable and experienced military defense attorney who knows what is involved in this type of case.
The Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC Helps Military Members in Colorado Who Have Been Charged with a Crime
The U.S. Government has an interest in obtaining a conviction as soon as possible, as it does not wish to gain negative publicity about one of its service members. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced military attorney as soon as possible. If you are a military service member and have been charged with a crime under the UCMJ, the Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC can help. We proudly serve our military members, who sacrifice so much for our country. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!