The past few months have been very busy for Cherkasky Law. We have represented two clients in courts-martial in England and handled almost a dozen administrative cases. But, most importantly, I am now a California Military Attorney able to fully represent clients in California state court. Seven years after becoming an Illinois attorney, I passed the California bar exam this spring! Clients in California needing a military attorney now have the 2-for-1 advantage of having your best military defense attorney also able to provide representation outside the military in both California and Illinois state and federal courts.
Military Double Jeopardy
Military members can be prosecuted by the military for the same crime that local civilian courts prosecute you for. People often think the idea of “double jeopardy” prohibits this type of double prosecution, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The law only prohibits double prosecution in the same jurisdiction. Since military courts are a separate jurisdiction from state or federal courts, the “double jeopardy” protection is not an option.
When you are being prosecuted by the locals and the military, it may be in your best interest to have the same lawyer for both actions. However, it is critical that the attorney representing you in military actions actually has experience. Criminal attorneys can find their way around most civilian court rooms, but the military is a totally different beast. Imagine if your attorney is trying to decide the jurors that should decide your case, but he doesn’t know the difference between an NCO and a Colonel.
I believe that by being licensed in both Illinois and California, Cherkasky Law has made itself significantly more useful for a large number of potential clients facing criminal action in both state court and military court.
Military DUI Attorney
The single best example of when you want an experienced military attorney to also be licensed to practice law may be DUI cases. DUI is by far the most frequently punished UCMJ offense in my experience that is also punished by locals. I have seen countless situations where a military members takes the advice of a local attorney to enter a quick deal downtown, but that deals has devastating effects on their military career. Often, a local attorney considers a plea deal with no jail, or even a nolo contendre plea a major success. Although, these deals may be great in the traditional sense, this plea may very well end your military career.
If you are facing DUI charges the best course may be to fight your charges instead of taking a plea deal. First, by fighting and winning your charges in civilian court, the military will be significantly less likely to prosecute you for the same allegation. Second, it gives you the ability to contest the charges in the eyes of the military, even if you are convicted.
In other cases where the evidence is stacked against you, or where there are aggravating circumstances to the DUI, a quick deal with the locals may be your best choice. In every case in which the civilians and military both have jurisdiction to prosecute you, the military will request that the locals allow the military to take the lead. This request process can often be long and administratively difficult. If you have a good attorney that understands the system, it may be best to get the locals to cut a quick deal to limit the military’s ability to prosecute.
Finally, in some cases it may be best to get prosecuted by the military. Since the military typically handles non-aggravated DUIs through non-judicial punishment (Article 15/Captain’s Mast), it would save you from a criminal conviction for DUI. Although your military career will be seriously affected, you may still be able to get commercial driving jobs, or other employment that would otherwise be closed off by a criminal conviction.
Can I Sue the Military?
This is one of the most difficult questions I receive on an almost daily basis. As a general rule, you cannot sue the military for injuries (mental or physical) suffered during your military services. However, there are several situations where an active duty military member may have a cause of action to sue the military.
Although law suits against the military are generally unsuccessful, federal courts may be the best place to take complaints that the military is acting illegally. Federal courts have the authority to issue restraining orders or other injunctive relief to stop your command from violating your rights. As an example, if your commander is discriminating against you because of your race or gender, and military complain channels refuse to remedy the issue, federal courts may intercede.
While almost any attorney can get temporary license to represent you in federal court, it may be an advantage if your attorney is also licensed to practice in the same state as the federal court.
Who’s the Best for my Military Case
In the end, finding the best attorney is all about making phones calls, asking tough questions, and finding the attorney that makes you the most comfortable. You want an attorney that works for you at a fair price. Most military cases are unique to the military and the location or state of license of your attorney doesn’t matter. However, in those cases where you need a dual attorney, you now know Cherkasky Law has a distinct advantage over many of the other “military law firms” out there!