If you are an active duty service member, you must adhere to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Under this code, you are required to follow all rules of conduct expected by the military, whether you are on base, off base, or even active duty. If you are sent on furlough, which is a temporary leave of absence, you are still required to follow the UCMJ in its entirety.
How the UCMJ Applies to Off-Base Conduct
The UCMJ is a federal law. Civilian law enforcement officers do not enforce it. Instead, federal officers and military courts are the parties responsible for enforcing such laws. Local law enforcement is not always aware of the enforcement measures or the laws. Also, law enforcement does not have the legal authority to enforce any known breaches of the UCMJ – therefore, a military service member violating the code cannot be arrested or charged by local law enforcement for that UCMJ violation.
The Civilian and UCMJ Overlap
The UCMJ defines multiple crimes that overlap with civilian law. For example, murder, robbery, rape, and other heinous crimes are equally punished by military and civilian law. If a service member was to commit these crimes off-base, and local law enforcement arrests he or she, they are still under the federal jurisdiction of the UCMJ. Therefore, the soldier will face his or her crime in federal military court; not civilian court.
How the UCMJ Affects Off-Base Behavior
The military justice system also enforces local laws and regulations. Also, the UCMJ defines criminal acts that may not be recognized by law enforcement.
It is important to note that local law enforcement cannot arrest you for violations of the UCMJ. For example, the UCMJ prohibits adulterous conduct, but local law enforcement could not arrest or enforce these acts. However, that law enforcement officer can inform on-base personnel of your misconduct, and the on-base officers do have the right to arrest you and pursue charges as they see fit.
The Exception to the Rule: Domestic Violence and DUIs
Some crimes are solely the discretion of local law enforcement, and law enforcement does not have to notify the military officials of your conduct or wait for approval. Domestic violence is one of those crimes. If you are accused of domestic violence, local law enforcement has the right to arrest, detain, and charge you with a crime – and they do not have to inform military personnel.
Civilians do have jurisdiction over this type of misconduct, and you may face criminal charges in a civilian court as well as military court; regardless if the crime was on or off-base.
Likewise, a DUI could result in civilian charges when you are driving under the influence on public roads. The local law enforcement may arrest you and charge you with a DUI, but you could face similar penalties from the military for your conduct.
What if Off-Duty Soldiers are Visiting Overseas?
Off-duty soldiers are held to the same standards regardless of where in the world they might be at the time. Therefore, you could be vacationing in Mexico and still be expected to adhere to the code of military justice. Any failure to do so could result in an arrest, charges, and dishonorable discharge from the military.
Arrested for an Off-Base Offense?
If you have been detained for off-base conduct, such as a DUI or domestic violence, you need an attorney that has experience in these cross jurisdictional types of cases. Speak with attorney Christian A. Schwaner, P.C. today. As a former prosecutor, he understands the complexities of civilian statutes and federal alike. Therefore, he can provide you with an aggressive defense for any off-base crimes you might be accused of committing.
Schedule a consultation with him today at 719-577-9700 or request more information online.