Challenges for Active-Duty Military in Texas Civilian Courts

Being charged with a crime is not easy to face in any situation, but individuals on active duty in the military struggle with additional challenges beyond the norm. Civilian courts often do not accommodate military schedules and jurisdiction can overlap. Moreover, consequences that seem minor in the civilian realm can have disastrous effects on a military career.

If you are on active duty in the military in Texas and you have been accused of a criminal offense, it is vital to work with an attorney who understands the factors that complicate your case. Civilian charges can have long-term negative effects on your life, so it is wise to take the best steps to protect and defend your interests.


Active-duty military personnel can be subject to the jurisdiction of both the courts-martial and civilian courts at the same time. The courts-martial handle cases alleging violations of military law while civilian courts handle violations of civilian law, but some conduct can be considered a violation of both.

When an offense is committed beyond the scope of military service or it occurs on military property but involves civilians or crimes not covered under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), then it would fall to the civilian courts to prosecute. However, even when a case is handled completely outside the military, the service member accused can face military penalties.

Local civilian law enforcement authorities might arrest an active-duty service member for actions occurring off base, but the case could still be prosecuted as a violation of the UCMJ.

It is important to seek experienced defense counsel who can fight the criminal charges and provide advice to prevent negative consequences that can impact your military career and benefits.

Certain crimes are particularly likely to be subject to overlapping jurisdiction by military and civilian courts. These include:

  • Rape and sexual assault
  • Domestic/family violence
  • Robbery
  • Murder/manslaughter

Reporting Requirements

Each branch of the service has different requirements dictating when a service member must report criminal charges or convictions. Those on active duty in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps are required to report arrests and criminal charges regardless of whether they have been convicted. Those serving in the U.S. Army may only be required to report a conviction.

Certain crimes may be excluded from reporting requirements – this could include traffic tickets that don’t require a driver to appear in court.

It is important to understand exactly when you are and when you are not required to report civilian legal action. In addition, it is also critical to understand what information you are required to report. Military commanders are not supposed to impose penalties based solely on a self-report. It is a good idea to avoid providing information that could lead to unnecessary self-incrimination. Either reporting too much or too little could have serious negative consequences. Advice from an experienced attorney can help you avoid reporting mistakes.

Damage to Military Career

Despite an exemplary record of service and devotion to our country, a military service member may work years to build a career only to see it destroyed in a few moments. A member of the active-duty military may face penalties imposed by civilian courts and then face additional consequences imposed by military commanders.

While a civilian misdemeanor conviction could lead to nothing more severe than administrative penalties, these can still set back a career considerably. It is best to fight the civilian charges with an effective defense, and avoid the negative career consequences.

If a service member is convicted of or even charged with a serious offense, they could face court-martial and dishonorable discharge that not only destroys a career but also removes a lifetime of military benefits. It is critically important to understand how the military views the disposition of certain cases in civilian court. A situation that might be considered the equivalent to a dismissal by civilian standards could be treated as an admission of guilt by military standards and lead to the imposition of negative consequences.

Barbieri Law Fights to Protect Active-Duty Military Members in Texas Civilian Courts

Criminal charges can damage your life in any circumstances, but those on active-duty military service have more to lose. Moreover, their unique circumstances can make defense complicated.

The experienced team at Barbieri Law understands how to overcome the challenges and we are ready to fight relentlessly to protect your rights and future opportunities. To get started building your best plans for defense, call us at 972-424-1902 or contact our team  online to schedule a free consultation today.

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