Can I be punished by both the military and a civilian court for the same crime?
This is called Double Jeopardy and the answer is “Yes”. Unfortunately, this happens quite frequently. If you are charged with a crime by civilian law enforcement, not only will you face civilian charges, you will likely face action by your Command.
For example, if you receive a DUI, you will face prosecution in civilian court which may carry a driver’s license suspension, fines, court costs, and even jail. Those punishments do not stop your Command from also punishing you for the same conduct. Your Command has the authority to impose non-judicial punishment (NJP) and even administratively separate you after a civilian court has punished you.
What if my civilian charges are dismissed?
Your Command has the authority to punish you even if your civilian charges are dismissed. This may mean that you receive a non-judicial punishment or administrative separation for conduct that a civilian court found you did not commit. The scary reality is that you may even face a Court-Martial for the same conduct even if you were found not guilty by a civilian court.
What about double jeopardy?
Many of us have heard this term but its meaning may surprise you. Double jeopardy does not prevent you from being prosecuted and punished by both civilian court and the military. In other words, double punishment is not double jeopardy.
Many service members believe double jeopardy prevents them from being prosecuted by both the military and civilian courts. That is false. Civilian criminal laws are different than the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), just as the military world is different from the civilian. While the UCMJ and criminal civilian laws may outlaw similar conduct, service members can be prosecuted under both sets of law.
Can you give examples of when double jeopardy applies?
Double jeopardy stops the military from convicting a servicemember for a violation of the UCMJ and then pursuing a second conviction for the same act and crime. Double jeopardy prevents a civilian court from re-prosecuting you for the same crime that you have been acquitted of following a trial.
What should I know?
Be aware that you can be under the jurisdiction of both military and civilian law. Remember that double punishment is not double jeopardy. You may be convicted in civilian court and still be administratively punished and administratively separated by the military. A separation is not a criminal punishment, rather an administrative action – therefore double jeopardy does not apply.
Our team of attorneys fight on both fronts
At Crisp and Associates, we are dual threat attorneys. Our civilian attorneys aggressively handle UCMJ violations, Courts-Martial, and civilian criminal charges. Every single one of our attorneys has experience in both civilian courts and the military justice system. Simply put, we are experienced in fighting criminal charges and UCMJ violations, no matter the battlespace.