What Can I Expect if I Was Accused of a Military Crime in San Diego, CA?

What Can I Expect if I Was Accused of a Military Crime in San Diego, CA?

San Diego, California, is one of the most desirable areas in the country. Its year-round weather, proximity to the coast, and beautiful scenery are just a few noteworthy qualities.

San Diego is also home to a number of military bases, primarily those branches that can take advantage of its miles upon miles of pristine beaches – like the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.

The area’s strong military presence means that military crimes are relatively common.

Being accused of a military crime in San Diego, California, can be daunting – especially if you’re unfamiliar with the unique processes and procedures that may take place.

This article will inform you on what to expect and how a San Diego criminal attorney can help defend your rights.

A Brief Overview of Military Crimes Procedures

Military personnel of every branch are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a standardized, comprehensive set of laws regarding criminal justice.

The Code covers everything from definitions of crimes and punishments to procedural protections, such as appeals. There are further rules regarding how the Code is implemented in the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM).

Members of the military are offered many procedural rights through the UCMJ, which are similar to those given to members of the public upon being arrested by the police. These rights include:

Upon being accused of a military crime in San Diego, California, it is in your best interest to exercise these rights as soon as you can. Most notably, you should remain silent until you’ve spoken with a lawyer about your legal rights and options.

Article 15s

Article 15s (also referred to as Non-Judicial Punishment) are the most common type of military discipline. They do not require formal criminal procedures and do not create a criminal record. In many instances, they can even be removed from military-specific records.

As a service member, you have the right to accept or refuse an Article 15. Accepting an Article 15 does not mean you admit guilt for the alleged crime; you will have an opportunity to present evidence in favor of your innocence.

However, you may refuse an Article 15 and seek a court-martial instead.


The process through which military crimes are adjudicated is called a court-martial, which is similar to a civilian trial in a criminal law court. There are three courts-martial that vary based on the severity of the offense:

  • Summary Courts-Martial (for Article 15s)
  • Special Courts-Martial (for minor military crimes)
  • General Courts-Martial (for severe military crimes)

You have the right to a free military defense attorney if you are subject to a special or general court-martial. You also have the right to an appeal if you are convicted of a military crime under any of these proceedings.

What Penalties Can Result From a Military Crimes Conviction in San Diego?

The sentencing process for courts-martial is called “extenuation and mitigation.” In a court-martial, the jury imposes the sentence rather than the judge – which is different from how sentencing works in a civilian trial. The potential penalties and consequences depend on the type of court-martial.

Article 15 or summary court-martial convictions can result in the following types of penalties:

  • Extra duty
  • Restriction
  • Fines
  • Correctional custody

For a special court-martial conviction, the penalties may include:

  • A “bad conduct” discharge
  • A reduction in grade
  • Up to one year in military jail

And for a general court-martial conviction, possible penalties are:

  • Dishonorable discharge
  • Life in prison
  • Death penalty


Other penalties and consequences may arise as well, depending on the facts particular to the situation. The MCM contains a detailed chart of crimes and their associated penalties.

How Can a San Diego Military Crimes Lawyer Help?

In almost every military crime proceeding, you have the right to an attorney. An experienced military lawyer can ensure your legal rights and protections are maintained throughout the process, as they will be highly familiar with the UCMJ and MCM. Specifically, an attorney can:

  • Investigate your case to determine your best legal course of action
  • Collect evidence in support of your defense
  • Represent you and speak on your behalf whenever possible
  • Be your counsel during the court-martial trial
  • Evaluate your legal options as your case develops
  • Handle any appeals, if applicable

These are just a few examples of how a San Diego military crimes lawyer can help you with your case.

Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve been accused of a military crime in San Diego, California, you may not be sure of what you should do next and how the process might unfold.

As a conviction can impose more severe penalties than what would be assessed in a civilian court of law, it can be especially beneficial to hire an experienced attorney to represent you.

Keep in mind that you can contact a criminal defense lawyer for a free initial consultation in most instances, so it is almost always in your best interest to reach out and receive preliminary legal advice and no cost to you.