Accusations of committing violent crimes in the military may result in serious charges that have life-changing – or ending – consequences. As such, if you are facing such grave accusations it is imperative that you immediately consult with an experienced Honolulu-based military violent crimes lawyer. This could make all the difference in successfully defending you in a court-martial. Because our attorney has military experience as an enlisted Marine and as an Army JAG officer, he is highly skilled at navigating the laws of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and brings a unique and formidable skill set to any defense.
Violent crimes, such as murder, manslaughter, or violent assault, are obviously profoundly serious offenses for military service members. If someone is suspected of committing a violent crime, military law enforcement will presume they are guilty, relentlessly investigate them, repeatedly interrogate them, and invade every privacy they normally enjoy in order to obtain any evidence they can to support a conviction. The investigation may last years, and the accused will be flagged or on legal hold the entire time. Because of the severity of these violent crime charges, it is important for an accused military service member to contact our Honolulu-based lawyer as early as possible.
Article 118 (10 U.S.C. 918) of the UCMJ prohibits 4 types of murder: 1) Premeditated murder (murder committed after the formation of a specific intent to kill someone and consideration of the act intended); 2) Intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm (without premeditation); 3) Act inherently dangerous to another (disregard for human life and knowledge of probable consequences); 4) During certain offenses (burglary, rape, rape of a child, sexual assault, sexual assault of a child, aggravated sexual contact, sexual abuse of a child, robbery, or aggravated arson). These different types of murder have varying degrees of severity, and therefore different sentences are authorized for each.
The military aggressively prosecutes “shaken baby” cases as premeditated and unpremeditated murder. In these cases, the government relies on evidence of injuries to a deceased child to prove a parent caused the death, even if there are no eyewitnesses to the injuries. The government reasons that young children are incapable of significantly injuring themselves on their own, so it must be a parent who did it.
The science behind these cases has an unreliable history. The original theory that babies can die simply from being shaken was published in medical journals the 1950s. It gained traction over the years, was adopted by the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), and doctors who subscribed to this theory testified in prosecutions resulting in thousands of convictions. However, the theory was largely disproven in the 1990s and many convictions have since been overturned. Instead of backtracking, the AAP dug in its heels and adjusted the diagnosis, to require the inclusion of head trauma. They named the diagnosis “Abusive Head Trauma.” Thus, shaken baby prosecutions persist despite sharp criticism. Today, hospitals have “Child Abuse Pediatricians” who literally diagnose child abuse and murder. They will tell law enforcement that your story of how the child was hurt is inconsistent with the injuries, and you will be prosecuted largely because of one physician’s opinion.
These cases are incredibly complicated. A good defense will likely require the involvement of many experts, to include forensic pathologists, radiologists, pediatricians, neurosurgeons, and other specialized personnel. Most importantly, a good defense requires a Honolulu-based lawyer like ours who has experience successfully defending these types of violent crime cases, understands the flawed science behind them, has mastered the medical terminology, brings together a team of highly specialized medical professionals, and could effectively advocate to judges and juries.
Article 119 (10 U.S.C. 919) of the UCMJ covers manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is a violent crime defined as any person who, with an intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm, unlawfully kills a human being in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation.
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when someone who does not have the intent to kill or seriously harm another person, yet does so because of an act or omission with disregard for the foreseeable consequences to others, or during the perpetration of another crime directly affecting the person (other than burglary, rape, rape of a child, sexual assault, sexual assault of a child, aggravated sexual contact, sexual abuse of a child, robbery, or aggravated arson).
Assault and aggravated assault are covered under Article 128 (10 U.S.C. 922) of the UCMJ. Assault is commonly misunderstood in the military. It is defined as the attempt or offer to do bodily harm (“offensive touching of another, however slight”) to a certain person. Offensive touching is what would be considered offensive to the average reasonable person. This basically means that an assault in the military is an attempt to offensively touch another, however slight, or putting another in fear of being touched offensively, however slight. Contact is not required. If offensive touching occurs, the assault is “consummated by battery,” and the maximum authorized punishment increases. Aggravated assault is the use of a dangerous weapon that puts another in fear of being touched offensively, however slight; or inflicts a bodily injury that involves substantial disfigurement, substantial loss or impairment of any bodily function, substantial risk of death, extreme physical pain, disfigurement; or protracted loss or impairment of any bodily function. A dangerous weapon is defined as anything used in a manner capable of inflicting death or grievous bodily harm. This could be anything from a dinner plate to a motor vehicle.
Because of these definitions, there are almost an infinite number of ways a service member could be accused of assault or aggravated assault. A skilled Honolulu-based military attorney like ours could make all the difference in the defense of a service member accused of any of these or other violent crimes.
Accusations of violent offenses should be taken very seriously as they include a number of severe punishments. Someone found guilty of type 1 or 4 murder may be sentenced to death. The mandatory minimum sentence is life in prison with eligibility for parole. Type 2 or 3 murder is not punishable by death, but is punishable with up to life imprisonment with or without the possibility for parole.
The maximum punishment for voluntary manslaughter is dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 15 years. In the case of the death of a child under 16 years of age, 20 years of confinement is authorized. The maximum punishment for involuntary manslaughter is dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 10 years. In the case of the death of a child under 16 years of age, 15 years of confinement is authorized.
Punishment for the various types of assault depends on who was assaulted, what was used during the assault, and the amount of injury inflicted. Authorized confinement ranges from 3 months to 20 years. Our Honolulu-based lawyer could help a military service member minimize or avoid any of the penalties associated with a violent crime.
Every service member deserves the best defense when faced with accusations of a violent crime. Due to the serious nature of these offenses, you may be facing severe punishments that could greatly impact your future. If you are accused of assault, manslaughter, or murder, you need a knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled attorney to provide you with the best options to defend your case. Call today to speak with our Honolulu-based military violent crimes lawyer.