There are a great many consequences of a military criminal conviction that clients do not often know about or consider. Therefore, we wanted to list a few here to help you understand and make an informed decision. The following briefly describes the most common outcomes:


As you may know, being a “convicted felon” has many ramifications in our society. You’ll likely lose your right to vote or to run for public office, your chances of being employed in many fields (law enforcement, medical, or other positions that are considered “sensitive” or involve positions of trust). Whether or not a conviction on a particular charge will be treated as a felony varies from state to state. You should discuss your specific plans with your counsel to find out what your conviction will mean in a particular state.


If you are convicted at a court martial, you may receive a “punitive discharge” (Bad Conduct,  Dishonorable or Dismissal (if you’re an officer). These discharges will take effect after any mandatory appeal process is completed (sometimes as long as three years after your conviction). This means that you remain on active duty until the punitive discharge takes effect or your enlistment expires, whichever occurs first. That said, it is likely that you will be placed in a no-pay “appellate leave” status until this happens. During the wait, you and your dependents will still be permitted to use the Exchange and Commissary and you’ll retain your right to medical and emergency dental. Once your discharge is approved, you’ll lose these benefits.


As mentioned, many states restrict the voting rights of convicted felons. You should discuss your specific state rules with your counsel to determine if you might retain voting rights.


Federal law prohibits a person who has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year from purchasing ammunition or firearms. This also applies to convictions for domestic violence regardless of the confinement time. Your attorney can assist you in understanding your specific state’s rules.


Convictions for certain “sex offenses” may require that you register as a sex offender. This draconian policy is governed by federal as well as state law. For example, the names of “sex offenders” and the details of their crime will be accessible by members of the public on websites such as this one:

Those required to register as a sex offender will have restrictions on attending colleges, living near parks or schools, and working in industries where they would have contact with minors, to name just a few. As an example, click here for California’s rules, which are very similar to other states. The terms and duration of sex offender registration vary from state to state. Certain states may require registration for offenses not listed in the instruction. Read more about sex offender registration generally by clicking here. Regardless of your state, PLEASE make sure you understand the ramifications of this policy thoroughly before you agree to plead guilty to a crime considered a “sex offense.”


You may not know it now, but the benefits you’ve earned from the Veteran’s Administration are extremely valuable. They include lifetime disability compensation, veteran’s pension programs, free medical care, educational benefits (including the 9/11 GI Bill), housing and home loan guarantees, job training, small businesses loans, mental health counseling, and funeral benefits, just to name a few. Regardless of your age or health, you should NOT take any action that would give up these benefits without careful consideration. For example, the post 9/11 GI Bill is worth over $100,000 alone! Read more about these valuable benefits by clicking here. If you receive a punitive discharge you will likely lose ALL of these benefits. Please consult with an experienced military counsel before you do anything that would render you ineligible for VA benefits.   


A court-martial conviction can negatively affect a non-citizen’s immigration status, ultimately leading to deportation proceedings. Click here to review Grounds for Deportability. These grounds include, but are not limited to, conviction for a “crime of moral turpitude” for which a sentence of one year or longer may be imposed, conviction for some controlled substance offenses, and convictions for domestic violence.


Enlisted members separated by a punitive discharge, and officers separated by a dismissal will lose all retirement benefits, including pay and medical benefits.

As you can see, a court martial conviction could drastically impact your life. You should do EVERYTHING you can to fight in order to avoid one. At King Military Law, we work to fight–and win–this battle every day. Please give us a call if you think we can help. 

King Military Law: Decades of Experience in YOUR Corner–When Experience Matters Most