When Military Appeals Work

I have written and spoken frequently on the importance of a thorough review for appeal. When a servicemember is convicted of a military crime, the conviction will be reviewed on appeal by a military appellate court that has the power to permanently set aside (or erase) the conviction. 

Here’s the latest case that proves that point: Our client was convicted of involuntary manslaughter by a military jury and sentenced to 65 months in prison and a dishonorable discharge. He hired KML to review his appeal and it became clear that his conviction was unjust.  We put together a comprehensive brief and received the following ruling from the court in May of 2023:

“After weighing the evidence . . . we are not convinced of Appellant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. [W]e have determined that the evidence is factually insufficient to support Appellant’s conviction [and] the findings and sentence are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.”

This means that this deserving client is released from the Brig, returned to active duty, paid the pay to which he was entitled while in confinement, and his criminal conviction record is erased. Justice took nearly three years, but it eventually happened!

If you or a loved one were convicted by a military court, please find a military lawyer experienced in appellate work who can ensure you have every chance at receiving the justice you deserve.

King Military Law
~~ When Experience Matters Most ~~

False Accusations at the Incident Determination Committee

Fewer things are more distressful than being falsely accused of a crime. Fewer false accusations bring more pain and uncertainty than being falsely accused of abusing your children. Here at KML, we see these false accusations all too often, usually lodged by a vindictive spouse during a  contentious child custody proceeding.

And the military’s Family Advocacy Procedures (FAP) don’t help. FAP and Incident Determination Committees (IDC) decisions can have immediate and drastic effects on a servicemember’s career, leading to security suspension, suspension of duty, promotion withholds, and even separation from the military and criminal proceedings. Worse, these effects often result from an IDC decision that is based only upon the false accusations—nothing more!

But you can fight back. An innocent client recently contacted KML after the IDC “substantiated” horrible, false allegations against the client. KML conducted an aggressive, comprehensive investigation into the allegations and the accuser, and submitted our results to the IDC, asking that it grant the opportunity to submit a “late” appeal and that it reverse its decisions.

As you see from the attached, the IDC did both, and this client is now on his way to getting his professional life back. While the wounds of being falsely accused will take time to heal, and an officer’s career doesn’t immediately “snap back” afer an appeal is won, both are now Beginning.

If you or a loved one are falsely accused and find yourself facing an IDC, please don’t rely upon the system to “get it right.” Act immediately, and consider consulting with an aggressive, experienced lawyer to help guide you through this process and to effectively fight back on your behalf.

King Military Law

~~ Where Experience Matters Most ~~

Maximizing Your Chances of Successfully Correcting Your Military Record: Hire an Attorney

Hire an Attorney

Are you an individual with a military background who’s unhappy with the record that the Department of Defense has on you? Are your complaints with the record being ignored, or even worse, have your requests for corrections been rejected? It is possible to have your military records amended, however it may take some persistence and dedication.

When it comes to military records, the process of amending them can be lengthy and overwhelming. The Department of Defense has a set of guidelines and procedures that must be followed in order to successfully make corrections to a military record. As such, it can be extremely beneficial to have legal representation. A lawyer experienced in military law can navigate the bureaucratic channels and ensure the proper steps are taken to get the corrections made.

The process of correcting military records involves an appeal path and specific filing requirements. It can be difficult to determine what is necessary to qualify for a successful correction without being familiar with military regulations. An attorney can review the documents to ensure any submission

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Security Clearance Processing

Active duty military members, civilian Defense Department employees, and civilian employees of Defense Department contractors are very likely to need a security clearance for access to sensitive information to perform their work. Typically, the start of the process to obtain that clearance is the completion of a questionnaire, or the Electronic Questionnaire for Investigations Processing (or e-QIP).  This lengthy form contains numerous questions delving into the Applicant’s life and background which may generate potential issues during a background investigation that may result in a decision to deny the Applicant’s request for a clearance. A clearance may only be granted when “clearly consistent with the interests of national security” and any doubts are resolved in favor of national security.

When preparing to complete the form, the Applicant must acknowledge that failure to provide truthful information may be prosecuted as a violation of Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1001; and that a violation could result in imprisonment and/or a fine.  As a practical matter, if the Applicant submits untruthful answers, their likelihood of being granted a clearance decreases significantly.

Prior to completing and then submitting the form, the Applicant should review the National Adjudicative Guidelines (Guidelines). Even if the Applicant recognizes some potential issues with the Guidelines and their background, the Applicant should provide truthful information as a favorable outcome is still very possible in many cases.  The Guidelines address conditions that may mitigate concerns and taking early efforts to address these potential concerns may lead to a favorable result. Seeking the advice of counsel early in the process may make all the difference.

The most frequent issue that results in hurdles in the clearance granting process is financial considerations:

Financial Considerations

Most Applicants have some debt, even delinquencies. Failing to live within one’s means, satisfy one’s debts, and meeting one’s financial obligations may indicate poor self control, a lack of judgment, or an unwillingness to abide by rules and regulations. Financial problems may also indicate security concerns such as excessive gambling, mental health conditions, and substance abuse (including alcohol), thus making the Applicant susceptible to coercion or blackmail. 

But there are “mitigating” reasons for debt as well. These include: the behavior happened so long ago, was so infrequent, or occurred under such circumstances that it is unlikely to recur and does not cast doubt on the Applicant’s current reliability, trustworthiness, or good judgment; the conditions that resulted in the financial problem were largely beyond the Applicant’s control (e.g., loss of employment, a business downturn, unexpected medical emergency, etc.); the Applicant has received or is receiving financial counseling for the problem from a legitimate and credible source and there are clear indications that the problem is being resolved or is under control; the Applicant initiated and is adhering to a good-faith effort to repay overdue creditors or otherwise resolve debts; the individual has a reasonable basis to dispute the legitimacy of the past-due debt which is the cause of the problem and provides documented proof to substantiate the basis of the dispute or provides evidence of actions to resolve the issue; to mention a few.  

For these reasons, an Applicant may desire to seek advice from counsel about whether they may have problems getting a favorable determination on their application. Frequently, getting out ahead of the process may help the Applicant to obtain a clearance.

Mr. Ray Blank handles security clearance issues at King Military Law. Ray is a retired Air Force Judge Advocate who then spent over a decade prosecuting security clearance proceedings for the government. He’s been involved in hundreds of security clearance cases, understands the process “from the inside,” and knows why and how decisions are made. You can’t find a better counselor to help you through the process. 

If you or a loved one are preparing to apply for or are facing issues with, a security clearance, reach out to us today for a free consultation. We want to help you and, better yet, we know how.

King Military Law

~~ Where Experience Matters Most ~~

What To Do if You Receive a Security Clearance Denial & Why It’s Vital to Hire a Lawyer

Security Clearance

In the world of government jobs, one of the most sought-after criteria is a security clearance. It takes a long time to get one, and even after months of processing, individuals can still face difficulty in getting approved. Sadly, many applicants will also receive a security clearance denial, which can be both stressful and discouraging. It’s important to remember that a security clearance denial does not mean you cannot reapply; it merely means that you may need to take a few extra steps to navigate the process of reapplication or contesting the decision.

Understandably, most applicants are unable to navigate the legal system on their own and need the help of a professional lawyer. A lawyer can not only help you to best understand the requirements of a security clearance but also to review your case and advise you on your options in the event of a security clearance denial. This guidance can prove invaluable, as they have the expertise to evaluate the full scope of the security clearance process and all the potential

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DOD Statistics on Sexual Assault Are Troubling, But Not For The Reasons You May Think

The newest DoD statistics show that reports of sexual assaults in the military are “up” by thirteen percent. The annual reports states that 7,916 Active service members reported “unwanted sexual contact” or attempts to commit this crime. Roughly eight percent of active-duty females and one point five percent of active-duty males reported “an experience” of unwanted sexual contact. However, of those reports, only 2,683 had “sufficient evidence” to take any disciplinary action and 177 of the reports were proven to be false.

Compare this to the civilian sector, where roughly twenty percent of females and twenty five percent of males report the same.

Ignoring the basic fact that sexual assault in much more prevalent in the civilian sector, Congress and DoD have taken several steps to further decrease the incidents of sexual assault. These measures include staffing every command with (usually) senior enlisted or officers serving as “Victim Advocates” and providing the alleged victim a dedicated uniformed attorney who is often assigned to the alleged victim long before the accused servicemember has a right to that same legal assistance. Additionally, alleged victims can request transfer to another command—a request that is routinely granted—if the allege they were sexually assaulted. Moreover, active duty servicemembers who commit misconduct of their own now may not be punished for that misconduct in the regular fashion if that misconduct was committed or is somehow tied to the servicemember’s report of sexual assault. Finally, finding that 39 percent of alleged victims of sexual assault “don’t trust” the military justice system to prosecute their allegations, Congress has made sweeping changes to the prosecution of sexual assault, including mandating that law enforcement and military prosecutors be experienced in their field and also receive extensive training focused on sexual assault. No such requirements or training are mandated for those who defend those accused of these crimes. Instead, military attorneys assigned to defend those accused of these crimes, often have little experience and no investigative resources. The imbalance created is stark and troubling.

And the imbalance between military and civilian resources is also stark. While civilian’s who allege they have been the victim of sexual assault may have an advocate within the county prosecutor’s office, none are afforded the protections Congress has provided our active-duty members. Yet civilian public defenders are experienced in their craft and have experienced investigators to assist them.

The imbalance deserves attention. While efforts to decrease actual sexual assault in the military are widely supported, care must be taken to protect the accused as well. As the 177 cases that were proven false indicate, unscrupulous individuals DO lodge false complaints to avoid arduous duty assignments or in an attempt to accountability for their own misconduct. Those of us who work hard to defend our defenders are routinely disappointed when our clients, accused of this terrible crime, are ostracized, have their records flagged, promotions upheld, and are forced to defend themselves at a court martial where the many, many of them are fully acquitted, but not before their police records are tarnished with an “arrest for sexual assault,” they spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal representation, and are never again the same person.

What’s worse, many are not even afforded the ability to defend themselves at a court martial. In the Navy and Marine Corps, many of those accused of sexual assault, where the evidence is insufficient to win a conviction at a court martial, are forced to nonjudicial punishment, where they have no right to legal representation, little experience or ability to defend themselves, and subject only to the Commanding Officer’s determination about whether the crime occurred. In the majority of these cases, these defenders lose, and are quickly forced out of the Service, often after many years of honorable service. What’s worse, this NJP “conviction for sexual assault” is made available to civilian employers and the now-former servicemember experiences incredible difficulty gaining employment—for the rest of their lives.

Sexual assault, like all crimes, should be prosecuted and those found guilty held appropriately accountable. However, those who constantly cry that DoD is deficient in its response and that “more must be done” ignores the fact that DoD is far better at reducing sexual assault than those leaders have been in their own districts. And to respond to their own cries, they have created a “special,” victim-centric justice system that incentivizes false allegations and deprives our defenders of the due process they deserve to defend themselves against the lifelong impacts of simply being accused of this crime. And while meaningful efforts to minimize any crime are welcome by all, the Due Process rights of our innocent-until-proven-guilty-defenders must be as equally high a priority. It is not now, and innocent men and women are needlessly suffering.

If you or a loved one are accused of sexual assault or sexual harassment in the military, please reach out immediately to an experienced military law attorney for assistance.

King Military Law

Where Experience Matters Most

Navy Desertion: A Sign of a Bigger Problem?

navysailor
Navy Desertion

Much has been written about the recent rash of desertions from the Military, although the Navy seems most affected. In 2021, 157 sailors deserted, risking fairly severe consequences. In addition to loss of pay and benefits, the Sailor is subject to earning a dishonorable discharge and even prison time. Since the Army, Air Force, Marines nor the Coast Guard reported anywhere near these losses, desertions from the Navy may indicate a broader issue.

Last year, a water contamination crisis caused thousands of service members and their families to be uprooted from their homes in Hawaii and the problem took weeks to resolve. Also last year, Sailors interviewed by the Navy Times told stories about being forced to live without even the most fundamental necessities at the Barracks at Naval Support Activity, Bethesda. The barracks were lacking air conditioning throughout the hot months of summer, there was no running water available, and there was no way to secure their residence doors, either for privacy or to prevent incursions.

At Naval Air Station, Key West, Sailors were required to seek out lodging on their own when the Navy decided to close down the barracks for major repairs. Most widely publicized, Sailors aboard the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON were forced to live onboard during major construction. The living conditions were found to be abhorrent and forced the Navy to provide the entire crew with adequate accommodations off-ship, but only after an extreme uptick in suicides got Congressional attention.

In addition to the uptick of desertions, the Navy is separating a record number of (mostly) junior Sailors with “adjustment disorder” discharges. This permits the Navy to discharge a Sailor on the word of one medical professional who often doesn’t even meet with the Sailor before making the diagnosis of “adjustment disorder,” which results in the Sailor being separated with a less than honorable discharge, depriving the Sailor of the GI Bill and other education benefits from the VA.

If you or a loved one are experiencing difficulties while on active duty, please reach out to a Chaplain or counselor to get help. If you need to be released from the Navy, there are lawful and POSSIBLE ways short of discharge. Click here to learn more about these options or please reach out to an experienced military attorney for help. At KML, we would be honored to discuss your options during a free consultation. 

Similarly, if you’re being forced out by the Navy with an “adjustment disorder.” Give us a call and let us help.

And if you’re considering suicide, please let someone help:

www. KingMilitaryLaw.com

~~Where Experience Matters Most~~

Army colonel turned-Congressman wants the military to go easier on troops who smoke pot.

While marijuana remains illegal under federal law and the UCMJ, military members who test positive for THC are routinely pushed from the military with an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge. An OTH is the worst administrative discharge a servicemember can receive and has serious impacts on a veteran’s benefits. For example, an OTH will deprive a veteran of all education benefits from both the VA and (most) states, to include the GI Bill.  


Servicemembers should NEVER waive rights that result in their accepting an OTH without speaking to an attorney first.  If you or a loved one are facing discharge due to marijuana use, or any other reason, please reach out to an attorney experienced in military law

Navy Secretary Censures Retired Admiral, Punishes Other Officers for USS Bonhomme Richard Fire

“I am extremely disappointed that the Navy, to which I dedicated and devoted 35 years of service, has abandoned me for political expediency. Every officer, commander and leader should now be on notice.”

As has been widely reported in the media, the Navy has relieved and disciplined a record number of leaders in the last eighteen months. Retired Vice Admiral Brown was the latest victim of this culture of accountability and raises the alarm for all active duty leaders. VADM Brown was well past his planned retirement when SECNAV decided to censure him, a censure that had no impact on the VADM’s retirement benefits or rank. This, coupled with the fact that VADM Brown was not even offered the opportunity to be interviewed by Navy investigators, caused him to take the unusual step of expressing his displeasure with the navy’s effort at “political expediency.”
  If you or a loved one find yourself in the crosshairs of a military investigation, please get help from an attorney experienced in military law. In those circumstances, you simply cannot rely upon the service to which you have “dedicated and devoted” your career to return that loyalty.

Mental Health Discharges Can Now be Reconsidered. We Can Help.

Mental Health

EXCELLENT NEWS for Sailors and Marines discharged with an OTH or GEN discharge who have a diagnosis of PTSD, TBI, or other mental health conditions related to their service, OR have records documenting similar symptoms at the time of discharge that are attributable to their military service.

Under a new legal settlement, these individuals will have their discharge upgrade applications reviewed AUTOMATICALLY by the Navy Discharge Review Board! 

Some eligible Sailors and Marines will receive notifications of their eligibility and instructions on how to reapply. But many of those eligible will not! So, please help us get the word out to them and their loved ones!

For more information on the settlement and eligibility criteria, click here or contact an experienced military attorney. 
There are veteran legal services that will assist veterans with this program on a pro bono (no fees charged) basis. Click:  here for information on King Military Law’s Pro Bono Program.