In my last article, I talked about what protective orders are available to people who have experienced domestic abuse. But if you’re in the military or in a relationship with someone in the military, as a number of people in San Antonio are, there’s one main difference to be aware. In domestic violence cases involving the military, the Uniform Code of Military Justice comes into play, and there are some important distinctions to know.
If a family living on base experiences domestic violence, the Military Code of Justice requires protection of any dependents. The perpetrator is escorted off base and command is notified. If the perpetrator is a military member, that perpetrator has to answer to his or her immediate supervisor for a one-on-one meeting. Any weapons the perpetrator has are locked up, and then an investigation starts. If the perpetrator is a civilian, of course, the military has no jurisdiction over the case, but can bar the perpetrator from base to protect the military member and his or her family.
It’s a little more complicated if the family is living off base. While command might determine that it’s a matter for the civilian rather than the military courts, the military still will act to protect the family. There’s also a built-in support system in the military to help families dealing with domestic violence, called the Family Advocacy program, that includes counseling and financial services.
If a military member is found guilty of domestic violence, there are a range of punishments available which can include discharge. Also, the Lautenberg Amendment, a 1996 addition to the Gun Control Act of 1968, makes it a felony to ship, transport, possess or receive firearms or ammunition if convicted of domestic violence crimes. This, obviously, makes it difficult for a military member with a domestic violence conviction to remain in the military.
Typically, family lawyers will only become involved with military domestic violence cases if the domestic violence is followed by divorce proceedings. But there can be cases where it’s helpful to involve a family law in a case that the military tries. We can provide consultation on these cases and determine how we can specifically help you. While the military’s made it a priority to deal with domestic violence cases in recent years, it can help to have a San Antonio family lawyer with experience in these cases on your side.