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Military Defense Lawyer

If you are in trouble in the military, you need help, guidance, and an experienced military defense lawyer to advocate for you!

You have too much at stake not to mount the strongest defense possible. For Attorney Richard V. Stevens, that strength has grown over decades of military law experience.

A military court-martial, board hearing, other military adverse action, disciplinary action, or investigation could seriously jeopardize your military career, rank, reputation, future retirement and benefits, and even your freedom. Depending on the action, you could face prison time, discharge, or other devastating professional and personal consequences.

The critical decisions you make during this difficult time will affect not just your military career — they will affect your future and that of your family. Choosing an attorney to defend you is one of those critical decisions.

You may feel that things are happening very quickly and you’re overwhelmed. You may never have imagined yourself in this situation, and you don’t quite know what to do. We understand the stress you’re under and the difficulties you face. We also understand the importance of the decisions you must now make.

You have to consider what’s needed to ensure your rights are being protected, your defense has a voice, and you are seeking the most positive possible outcome in your case. Civilian criminal defense attorney Richard V. Stevens, and his military defense law practice, have a sole purpose: to provide our nation’s military members with experienced and aggressive legal representation in the face of adverse military actions and discipline, such as courts-martial.

Former Active Duty JAG Attorney. Aggressive Civilian Defense Lawyer. Experience You Can Rely On.

Attorney Richard V. Stevens is a former active duty JAG and a military law specialist who exclusively represents military members in military cases – he only handles military cases, and he has decades of military legal, and military justice, experience. He has been handling military cases since 1995. Over the course of his career, handling cases in all military branches, Attorney Stevens has earned a reputation as a premier military trial defense litigator, and he is one of the most recognized names in the specialized legal practice area of military defense and serving as civilian court-martial defense lawyer.

Attorney Richard V. Stevens is dedicated to protecting the rights of our nation’s military members and to aggressively defending them against all manner of military adverse actions – to include court-martial trial, court-martial clemency, court-martial appeal, administrative discharge/separation, Article 15 or nonjudicial punishment (N.J.P.), Uniform Code of Military Justice (U.C.M.J.) discipline, and other military disciplinary actions, investigations, and adverse actions (i.e. promotion, assignment, performance evaluation, security clearance, etc.). Please see “About Us,” “Practice Areas” and “Military Offenses” pages for a more thorough description of the attorneys and the types of military cases we handle.

“Our military members swear an oath to support and defend the constitution for all of us. We fight for them, to ensure they have experienced and zealous advocates in court, and with all levels of command, to make sure they are protected by the very constitution and rights they fight for.” – Attorney Richard V. Stevens

The Military Justice System: The Commander’s System

After you joined the United States military, you became subject to a justice system that, in many ways, is very different than the civilian justice system. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the statutory law that governs the military and its military justice system. Along with the UCMJ and the punitive Articles that can be charged as crimes, the Rules for Courts-Martial (R.C.M.), Military Rules of Evidence (M.R.E), and Rules governing NonJudicial Punishment (Article 15, NJP) are all included within the Manual for Courts-Martial (M.C.M.) which is the primary textual source for military law and procedure. Each service branch also has their own rules, regulations, instructions, and other guidance that governs their duties, responsibilities, and conduct.

The civilian justice system is run by career prosecutors. The military discipline and military justice systems are tools of military commanders to maintain good order and discipline and force readiness. The legal office (JAG, prosecutors) advise commanders, but do not make the decisions. The commanders make the decisions. Those decisions are made based on uniquely military considerations. For example, in the civilian world, being late for work or acting in a manner that is not considered gentlemanly are not crimes. In the military, being late for work is a crime in violation of UCMJ Article 86 (failure to go) and acting in an manner that is not gentlemanly could be a crime in violation of UCMJ Article 133 (conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman). These are just two examples of how conduct in the military can be punished as a “crime,” that would never be considered criminal in the civilian world.

Within the military justice system, there are a variety of adverse and/or disciplinary actions commanders can use to enforce good order and discipline and promote force readiness. These options range from mild to severe, and can not only negatively impact a military member’s career, but can forever impact their civilian futures as well. Some of the commander’s adverse action options include counseling, admonition, reprimand (LOR, GOMOR), Article 15 (nonjudicial punishment, NJP, Captain’s Mast, Office Hours), negative performance reports (evaluations), demotion, professional disqualification, administration discharge (“chapter”, separation), and/or court-martial (criminal trials).

In a perfect world, military commander’s actions are all fair, appropriate, and justified. It is not a perfect world! Commanders are human beings. Military prosecutors are human beings. Human beings have flaws. Some military commanders and/or prosecutors make errors, have biases, abuse authority, have malice – take actions that are not fair, are not appropriate, and are not justified. On those occasions when such unjust actions are taken, which could have such dramatic impacts on a military member’s future, there is a need for experienced and aggressive defense counsel.

Common Military Adverse Actions You May Face

One of the most common military disciplinary actions is NonJudicial Punishment. This is often referred to as “NJP,” or “Captain’s Mast” in the Navy, or “Office Hours” in the Marine Corps. It is also called “Article 15,” because it is a punishment authorized by UCMJ Article 15.

During NonJudicial Punishment proceedings, the Commanding Officer (CO) acts as accuser, judge, and jury. The CO serves the paperwork accusing the military member of violating the UCMJ. Then, after considering the written and/or personal presentation of the accused military member, the CO determines if the member is “guilty” of the allegations and what punishment should be given if the member is found “guilty.” If a military member is found “guilty” and punished under Article 15, that is NOT considered a criminal conviction. It is an administrative disciplinary tool with serious military consequences, but it is not a criminal conviction.

Unlike other military adverse actions, a military member who is served NJP paperwork does not have to accept the NonJudicial Punishment. The member can turn down the NJP, but this is a risky proposition and should only be done after serious consideration and legal consultation. It should first be understood that accepting NJP does NOT mean the military member is admitting guilt. It simply means the military member accepts that the case will be decided by the CO. A military member who accepts NJP can still plead not guilty and argue to the CO why he/she is not guilty and why the NJP action should be terminated.

Turning down NJP is a demand for trial by court-martial. If NJP is turned down and court-martial is demanded, and the case proceeds to court-martial trial, the military member risks a possible federal criminal conviction and sentence that could include punitive discharge and prison time. So, the risks of such a decision are high.

The most serious military cases are heard in a court-martial. There are three types of court-martial, with different levels of severity.

  • Summary Court-Martial (SCM): SCM is the least often used, and it is used only for minor offenses because the authorized punishment is significantly limited. In a summary court-martial proceeding, the accused military member does not have the right to a military panel (“jury”), and the case is not presided over by a Military Judge. The case is presided over by one officer. The military member also does not have a right to a defense lawyer, although in certain military branches defense lawyers are permitted to assist the accused. Because a military accused does not have the right to a “jury” or defense counsel in a summary court-martial, the case is not presided over by a Military Judge, and the procedural rights and protections are far more limited than a criminal trial, a conviction (being found guilty) in a SCM is NOT considered to be a federal criminal conviction. It is still like an administrative disciplinary action, with increased punishment options. Those punishment options include very limited military confinement, usually not to exceed 30 days.
  • Special Court-Martial (SPCM): Special courts-martial are criminal trials in the military, and a conviction in a SPCM is considered to be a federal criminal conviction. It does, therefore, result in a criminal record. In the military, offenses are not labeled as “misdemeanors” or “felonies” like in the civilian world. They are just considered federal criminal offenses. But, a SPCM is roughly akin to a misdemeanor trial in the civilian world, because less serious offenses are addressed in a SPCM, and total confinement time cannot exceed one year. In a SPCM, the accused can be tried by a Military Judge alone or a military panel (“jury”). A SPCM is conducted under the same rules and procedures as a GCM, and these are primarily found in the Manual for Courts-Martial (M.C.M.).
  • General Court-Martial (GCM): General courts-martial are criminal trials in the military, and a conviction in a GCM is considered to be a federal criminal conviction. It does, therefore, result in a criminal record. In the military, offenses are not labeled as “misdemeanors” or “felonies” like in the civilian world. They are just considered federal criminal offenses. But, a GCM is roughly akin to a felony trial in the civilian world, because the most serious offenses are addressed in a GCM trial. Allegations such as serious drug offenses, theft, sexual assault, rape, and murder would be heard in a GCM. If there is a conviction in a GCM trial, the maximum authorized confinement is based on adding up the maximum authorized confinement for each allegation the accused member is found guilty of. So, the maximum authorized confinement for a GCM conviction could greatly exceed the one year limit of a SPCM, and could be decades or even life in prison. Like a SPCM, the accused in a GCM can be tried by a Military Judge alone or a military panel (“jury”).

A SPCM or GCM look very similar to a civilian criminal trial. The procedural rules and rules of evidence are very similar to what are used in civilian federal criminal court trials. Depending on the type of court-martial, if there is a conviction and qualifying sentence, the case may be heard in the military appeals system.

Court-Martial Appeals

If a court-martial sentence qualifies for it, the case would be considered by a military appellate court. Each military branch has their own military appellate court. There are:

If the appeal at the military service branch court of appeals is not successful, the case might be heard by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF). If the appeal is not successful at CAAF, in very rare circumstances, the appeal might even be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

You May Feel Intimidated by the Military Justice System

Military disciplinary actions, particularly courts-martial, should be taken very seriously. The career and future impacts can be severe and long lasting. Not only could a court-martial trial result in a federal criminal conviction, a court-martial sentence could include a punitive discharge (dismissal for officers, bad conduct discharge or dishonorable discharge for enlisted military members) and years in prison. In addition, military, retirement, and VA benefits could be lost and there could be other consequences such as loss of professional license or, for certain cases, sex offender registration.

Because of the possible serious ramifications of military adverse actions, accused military members need to be proactive and make sure his or her rights are fully protected. That begins with the decision about a defense lawyer. Because the military disciplinary and military justice systems are unique, and the military culture itself is unique, it is important to seek a lawyer who understands and practices within these unique systems. A lawyer who knows the rules, regulations, laws, and customs that apply in the military.

Get the Help of an Experienced and Aggressive Civilian Defense Attorney who Practices as a Military Defense Lawyer

If you are under investigation for allegedly violating the UCMJ or service specific rules or regulations, or you are already facing an adverse action, disciplinary action, or court-martial, contact us to discuss your case and see how we may be able to help you.

Based on our extensive military law experience, we fully evaluate the unique facts of your case, and will provide you with an unbiased and honest assessment of the situation. We won’t “sugar-coat” our assessment and advice so you will be able to make fully informed and difficult decisions, and so you know what to expect. We always look to what strategies might be successful for the case. Legal issues and motions that can be raised. Investigative errors that can be exploited. Factual issues that can be highlighted. The most persuasive arguments that can be delivered. While we can never guarantee a result, we have a proven record of success over many years of military law practice. Our law firm exists to serve and defend military members who are facing these difficulties.

Call us, toll free, at 888-399-0693. It may be the most important phone call you ever made.

Defense Attorney Richard V. Stevens

Years of trial experience as a military prosecutor and military defense attorney, as well as state and federal trial attorney. Represents and defends members of all military branches worldwide in all manner of military adverse actions. Extensive experience and success in defending clients in complex military criminal trials involving the most serious offenses. READ ATTORNEY BIO

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Criminal Defense

“Your client has no idea how lucky he was to have hired you.”

- Former Senior Military JAG Attorney

“He simply commanded the courtroom, prepared to the teeth, and, most importantly, retained his personal and professional manner that proved so impressive in his advocacy success.”

- Former Senior Military Judge

“His advocacy, compassion, intellect, and demeanor are unsurpassed.”

- Former Military Staff Judge Advocate and Trial Judge

“That was the best closing argument I have ever seen; by a civilian or military attorney.”

- Senior Court Reporter

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Military Defense Help

Military Officer Has Sexual Assault Case Dropped (UCMJ Article 120)

Recently, a military officer defended by attorney Richard V. Stevens had the sexual assault case he faced dropped by the military just before court-martial charges were to be preferred against him (UCMJ Article 120).. The military client was accused of, and investigated fo [...]

Field Grade Military Officer Has Drug Case Dropped (UCMJ Article 112a)

Recently, a field grade military officer defended by attorney Richard V. Stevens had the drug case he faced dropped by the military after charges were referred to trial by general court-martial (UCMJ Article 112a). The military client was accused of distributing illegal re [...]