Serving the Military in Colorado Springs
Civilian criminal convictions are particularly problematic for members of the military because you will have to deal with two justice systems – the Colorado criminal justice system and the military administrative justice system. If you are a member of the military living in Fort Carson or Colorado Springs who has been charged with domestic violence or DUI, you should contact a criminal defense attorney right away.
As a member of the military, you should hire someone who has experience representing members of the armed forces in civilian courts. I am proud to serve those who serve our country. I understand the special concerns of military personnel, and I work closely with my military clients to help them protect their rights and their careers. To learn more about my criminal defense practice and career, click here.
While I cannot represent you in punitive action initiated by the military under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), I can defend you against charges in civilian court. Remember that a successful defense in a civilian court can protect you against the military justice system. Do not jeopardize your military career by working with an inexperienced attorney. Contact me today to discuss your rights.
A Criminal Conviction May Impact Your Military Career
It is important to understand that being convicted of a crime in civilian court can impact your career in the armed forces, even if the act for which you are being charged occurred outside of a military base. DUI and domestic violence are two of the most common civilian criminal problems that military personnel face. If you are a member of the military facing domestic violence or DUI charges in the Fort Carson or Colorado Springs area, you should be aware of the following information.
Civilian Penalties for DUI/DUAI
In Colorado, you will be charged with DUI if you are caught driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more. You will be charged with DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) if your BAC is at least 0.05 percent but less than 0.08 percent. While a DWAI conviction is less serious than a DUI conviction, both can involve a wide range of criminal and administrative penalties:
Possible Criminal Penalties
DUI/DWAI criminal penalties increase with each subsequent offense. Previous offenses will be counted against you – no matter where they occurred (i.e., out of state or not) or how long ago they occurred. Possible penalties include:
- Fines and fees of up to $1,500 for a first offense. This fine increases for subsequent offenses, and a fine of up to an astonishing $500,000 can be imposed for a fourth offense.
- Jail time of up to one year (six years in state prison is possible for a fourth offense).
Possible Administrative Penalties
- Revocation of your driver’s license for up to nine months (up to one year if you refuse a police officer’s request to take a blood, breath, or urine test to determine your level of intoxication). A two-year suspension is possible for a third offense.
- Mandatory alcohol education and treatment program.
- Confiscation of your vehicle (for repeat offenses).
- Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device on your vehicle at your own expense (imposed for a first offense if your BAC was 0.17 percent or more, and imposed for repeat offenses even with a lower BAC).
- Up to 48 hours of community service.
- Probation of up to two years.
- SR-22 auto insurance requirement.
Civilian Penalties for Domestic Violence
In Colorado, the term “domestic violence” does not refer to a separate crime. Instead, it refers to a “sentence enhancer” – it applies if you are charged with a separate crime such as harassment, stalking, assault, or violation of a restraining order, in order to “enhance” your sentence. Under certain circumstances, it can be applied even to non-violent conduct, such as harsh language.
Under Colorado law, domestic violence applies to conduct that involves violence or the threat of violence, in the context of an intimate relationship, for the purpose of revenge, intimidation, coercion, control or punishment. Once the “domestic violence” label is applied, certain “victim’s rights” procedural requirements must be followed that are likely to work to your disadvantage:
- The police are required to arrest you if they have probable cause to believe that the offense occurred.
- A restraining order must be issued immediately after you are arrested. The restraining order typically bars you from any contact with the person accusing you, and you can be charged with a second crime if you violate it.
- The prosecutor does not have the discretion to drop the charges against you if there is any chance at all that he or she might win the case in court. This rule applies regardless of the prosecutor’s personal opinion on your guilt (or innocence).
A domestic violence conviction can result in the following civilian penalties under Colorado law:
- Fines (the amount depends on the nature of the underlying crime).
- Jail time (the duration of incarceration depends on the nature of the underlying crime; if it is a felony, you could go to prison).
- Mandatory domestic violence counseling.
- Loss of your right to possess a firearm, with potentially disastrous ramifications for your military career (see below). Fortunately, this ban does not apply to major weapons systems or crew-operated weapons systems, such as tanks.
Military Administrative Penalties
If the event for which you are charged occurred off-base, you are likely to face a civilian trial but not a military court-martial. You will, however, be subject to military administrative penalties that will be added to the civilian penalties imposed on you. The normal constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy (which prevents you from being tried twice for the same crime) does not apply to military administrative penalties – the military can still levy additional penalties against you. Furthermore, the burden of proof is much lower in a military administrative punishment proceeding than in a civilian criminal court – proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” is not necessary.
Some of the penalties that you might face include:
- A letter of reprimand that remains in your permanent military file.
- Revocation of military pass privileges – you may be barred from going on leave until your civilian court proceedings are complete.
- Mandatory enrollment in a substance abuse treatment program (particularly in DUI/DWAI cases, possibly in addition to any treatment program imposed by the civilian court).
- A ban on driving military vehicles (particularly if your driver’s license has been suspended due to a DUI/DWAI conviction).
- Additional training to correct any perceived deficiencies that came to light as a result of your civilian criminal conviction, including deficiencies that do not include criminal activity.
- Reduction in grade.
- Ineligibility for leadership positions that will give you access to weapons (if you have lost the right to possess a firearm due to a domestic violence conviction).
- Ineligibility for overseas deployment (if you have lost the right to possess a firearm due to a domestic violence conviction).
- Ineligibility for missions that require possession of firearms or ammunition (if you have lost the right to possess firearms due to a felony or a domestic violence conviction).
- Ineligibility for enrollment in training or service schools where the curriculum involves guns or ammunition (if you have lost the right to possess a firearm due to a domestic violence conviction).
- Denial of the opportunity to re-enlist (very common).
- Discharge from the service (very common).
Reporting Your Charge to Your Superior
It is not always necessary to report your charge to your superior. Relying on my experience representing military personnel charged with crimes by civilian authorities, I can work with you to determine the most prudent actions to take with respect to the chain of command, so as to protect your military career and reputation to the maximum extent possible.
Being charged with a criminal offense by the Colorado civilian authorities could devastate your life and ruin your career. The best defense, however, is a good offense – in other words, the best way to avoid the potential professional ramifications of a criminal conviction is to avoid conviction altogether, or at least plea bargain for a lesser charge.
My name is Christian Schwaner, and I am an experienced Colorado Springs DUI/domestic violence defense lawyer with years of experience helping military personnel fight back effectively against the Colorado criminal justice system. Since I am a former prosecutor, I understand how the Colorado criminal justice system works from both sides of the table, and I have helped hundreds of people just like you beat criminal charges and move on with their lives.
I provide free initial consultations, and can even visit you in jail if you cannot come to my office. Please take some time to review the information contained in the links below for a thorough explanation of exactly what you are up against. If you are in the military and you have been charged with domestic violence or DUI by the civilian authorities in the Fort Carson or Colorado Springs area, contact me online or call me at (719) 577-9700.