Military Defendants in Texas Military Veteran Attorney

3 Things To Avoid When Representing a Military Defendant

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Criminal Defense Attorneys Defending a Military Defendant Must Be Careful Not to Make These Mistakes

Military Defendants in Texas Military Veteran AttorneyTexas has its fair share of military bases and military servicemembers. Sometimes those servicemembers get into trouble, be it for DWI, Domestic Violence, or other criminal offenses. The military defendant, who usually has no criminal history, is not savvy with the Texas criminal justice system and must rely solely on the criminal defense attorney he selects to represent them. Below are some of the mistakes that I’ve seen when a non-military criminal defense attorney represents a military defendant. These are my opinions and should not be attributable to the United States Marine Corps or any government agency.

Mistake #1 – Allowing Your Client to Wear His Uniform to Court

You should not ask or allow your military criminal client to wear his service uniform to court. I understand that you may think his uniform will win him favor with the judge or the prosecutor, but it doesn’t. Anecdotally, I’ve spoken with several judges and prosecutors on this issue and it never inures to your client’s benefit. Whether you believe it or not, the general public (including judge and prosecutors) holds our military to a higher standard than the average defendant. Rightly or wrongly, they expect more from them and don’t like to see them as a criminal defendant. By allowing your client to wear his uniform, you skyline him and lower our Armed Forces in public esteem in the process. Unless it is an absolute emergency and his uniform is the only thing keeping your client from appearing in court naked, please ask him to wear the same thing your other clients wear to court. A court setting for a criminal case is the last place your client wants to be noticed in his dress uniform.

Mistake #2 – Not Considering the Military Consequences of a Disposition

When representing military servicemember, you need to ask and learn about the military consequences of the criminal case. Some criminal case dispositions trigger mandatory reporting to the member’s chain of command, which could (and often does) result in negative consequences in the military. Other types of cases (e.g. Domestic Violence) can result in your client losing the right to possess a firearm, which makes them non-deployable and virtually useless to their command. If your client does not know what his obligations are to his Service, seek out another attorney with military experience and ask them. DO NOT CALL YOUR CLIENT’S COMMAND OR THE BASE LEGAL COUNSEL. There is no privilege with base personnel and they will often be required to report your call to your client’s commander.

Mistake #3 – Not Requesting Your Client’s Military Record (OMPF)

Every servicemember has an OMPF or Official Military Personnel File. The OMPF will tell you everything you need to know about your client’s service. It will show you awards, deployments, performance ratings, disciplinary actions, and more. If you plan on using your client’s service as a positive mark in his favor, you should do your research to make sure that his service has indeed been positive. Your client may have below average ratings, several minor disciplinary infractions, and a Letters of Reprimand in his file. Or he may have combat awards, Letter of Appreciation, and early promotion recommendations. A savvy prosecutor will know all of this. The military shares information with the DA when requested. So before you drape yourself and your client in the flag, you should probably learn a little more about how “honorable” his service has been.

Military Veteran Representing Military Defendants in Texas State Courts

Brandon Barnett is a criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, Texas with Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC. He is a veteran of the US Marine Corps and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He currently serves a reserve Military Judge for special and general courts-martial. Mr. Barnett teaches Military Justice at Texas A&M University School of Law in Fort Worth. For a free consultation of your Texas criminal case or to consult with Mr. Barnett about the potential military consequences of a criminal disposition, contact him at (817) 993-9249.

ISIS and ISIL

What is the Difference Between ISIS and ISIL?

By | Veterans | No Comments

I know this post has nothing to do with Fort Worth Criminal Defense or Texas Criminal Law, but as a Marine officer and Reserve Military Judge, I am often asked about the threats facing our Marines and our nation.  As I was watching President Obama tonight talk about the terrorist attack in San Bernardino and the terror group ISIL, a friend of mine asked, “Why is he saying ISIL? Doesn’t he mean ISIS?”

Is there a difference between ISIS and ISIL?

The answer is yes (kind of).  The President knew exactly what he was saying.  ISIL stands for the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”  ISIS stands for the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”  ISIL is really the next (and bigger) iteration of ISIS.  The Levant is a large area in the middle east that is being held by ISIL.  However, since ISIS has become a household name, most news agencies continue to say ISIS, when ISIL is the correct name.

Want to Learn More About ISIL’s Ideology and How ISIL Grew to Power?

Check out the video below of a Marine Corps briefing by Dr. Sebastion Gorka, one of the nation’s leading experts on Islamic terrorism. This is an actual brief that was provided to high ranking Marine officers. I will warn you, this video is long. One hour long, to be exact. But as Dr. Gorka points out at the beginning of the video, he teaches a 16-week course on this topic, so one hour is really only the wavetops.  If you are the type who likes to post your opinions about this topic on social media, you should really take the time to watch this video.  Enjoy.

Tarrant County Veterans Court

Texas Broadens Eligibility for Veterans Treatment Courts

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Tarrant County Veterans Court Programs | Fort Worth Criminal Defense Lawyers

Tarrant County Veterans CourtTexas has more military veterans than any other state. In the wake of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many have difficulty transitioning from military service to civilian life. Some veterans suffer from PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injuries and others fall into addiction. Plagued by these ailments, some Texas veterans find themselves in the criminal justice system.

Recognizing a need, Texas has led the nation in addressing veteran criminal issues through special courts. Beginning in 2009, these court were designed to provide treatment and accountability for veterans in an effort to keep them out of the criminal justice system. There are currently 20 veterans courts in the state.

Under current law, which created the veterans courts programs, only veterans who suffer from an injury received while serving in a combat zone or other similar hazardous duty area are eligible to participate in a veterans court. Some veterans that have suffered similar injuries the occurred outside of a combat zone are not eligible despite the fact that the struggle for rehabilitation remains the same.

This has been a point of frustration for Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys who regularly handle cases involving Texas veterans.  We were often met with opposition when trying to admit a veteran to the specialty court program.

New Legislation Expands Veterans Court Eligibility

S.B. 1474, which takes effect on 9/1/15, broadens the eligibility for veteran participation in these special courts. The bill would provide the courts with more flexibility over who was admitted into the program by removing the requirement that any illness or injury have occurred “in a combat zone or other similar hazardous duty area.” There is also another provision that gives courts discretion to admit a veteran if he/she does not fit any of the other categories. Finally, the amendments allow a veteran who is being supervised by a veterans’ court program to transfer counties to another program if desired. These are all good changes that will help veterans and make these specialty courts worthwhile.

See the 2015 Veteran’s Court Update.