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Military Archives | Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorneys and Personal Injury Lawyers

Request Military Service Records DD214 SF180

How to Request a DD-214 or Other Military Service Records

By | Veterans

Getting a DD-214, Service Medical Records, or Other Military Service Information for Your Client

Request Military Service Records DD214 SF180Once a United States servicemember has been released from active duty, they are issued a DD-214. The DD-214 is a critical document, in that it records the member’s discharge classification (e.g. Honorable, General, Other than Honorable, Bad Conduct, Dishonorable), lists their tours of foreign duty, and assigns a re-entry code. The DD-214 is proof of service, and is used to verify eligibility for government benefits, including the GI Bill, VA loan, and others. Additionally, whether applying for a home loan, renewing a driver’s license, or applying for a college scholarship, the DD-214 is very useful.

In my line of work, I often need to see my client’s DD-214 in order to show the prosecutor that my client is an honorably discharged veteran or to help them apply for a Veteran’s Court program. Additionally, service medical records and other administrative documents contained within an Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) are often useful when defending a criminal case.

Use Standard Form 180 (SF-180) to Apply for Military Service Record Documents

The Standard Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records (SF-180) is used to request information from military records. Certain identifying information is necessary to determine the location of an individual’s record of military service. When filling out the SF 180, you should try to answer each item on the form, if possible. If you do not have and cannot obtain the information for an item, write “NA,” meaning the information is “not available,” but try to include as much of the requested information as you can. Incomplete information on the SF 180 can delay response time. To determine where to mail the request form, look at Page 2 of the SF-180 for record locations and facility addresses.

What Information Do I need in Order to Make a DD214 Request?

The following information is required to request military service records, including a DD-214:

  • Veteran’s complete name used while in service
  • Service number (usually, the Social security number, until recently when the DOD moved to a new DOD ID#)
  • Branch of Service.
  • Dates of entry and Date of release of service
  • Date and place of birth

How Long Does it Take to Receive Military Records and How Much Does it Cost?

I can only speak from experience. Every time I have requested military records from one of my clients, using the SF-180, I have received the requested personnel records within 45 days from the applicable records center. If you fill out as much of the SF-180 as possible, then the chances are that you will receive a response from the records center faster than if you leave items blank. Additionally, if you are request personnel documents on behalf of a military veteran client, then you’ll want to include a Power of Attorney with your request. I typically have the client sign the request form but then use my office address as the place to mail the records. You can check the status of your records request by telephone at NPRC Customer Service Line (314) 801-0800.

There is no cost, typically, for receiving a DD-214, medical records, or a basic OMPF. Some records will involve a fee, but you will be contacted if that is the case, prior to them sending you the records.

Expedited Service for Military Service Records

If you need records immediately, for a funeral, trial, or something urgent, you should try using the service (eVetRecs) from the National Archives. They strive for a 2-day turnaround on urgent requests.  You could also use this service instead of the SF-180 if you choose, even if your request is not urgent.

 

If you are a retired or discharged military member and you do not have several copies (or an e-copy) of you DD-214, you should download the SF-180 and request your records today. You never know when you’ll need them.

*PLEASE NOTE: Our firm only assists current clients in retrieving military service records as needed for their cases. Do to time limitations, we cannot help others in getting their military records. But hopefully, some of the information on this article will help you get your records.

Juvenile Sex Offender Conditions

Strict Monitoring of Juvenile Sex Offender Internet Usage is a “Heavy Burden,” says Fifth Circuit

By | Sex Crimes

In United States v. Sealed Juvenile, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals discusses how much oversight is too much when it comes to juvenile sex offenses.

Juvenile Sex Offender ConditionsPlease note: This article discusses sexual abuse of a child. Generally speaking, the reason the court system treats juveniles differently from adults is because of the hope of rehabilitation and restoration of the juvenile offender to society. With everything from school to job searching on the internet these days, should juvenile sex offenders be able to be on the internet? Is strictly monitoring a juvenile sex offender’s internet usage, down to the keystroke, an imposition on constitutional rights, or is society providing oversight to a juvenile defendant with the hope of rehabilitation?

A Juvenile Sexual Assault Occurs on a Military Base

While living with his family on a military base, a fifteen-year-old sexually assaulted a four-year-old. He was charged with violating 18 U.S.C. §§2241(c), 5032 (2012), “engaging in a sexual act with a person who had not attained the age of 12 years.” The juvenile defendant had a history of psychiatric illnesses, such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Bipolar disorder. He had a pattern of sending sexually explicit letters to classmates at school. Before sentencing the district court ordered a probation officer to render a special report, which concluded, “in the last year the juvenile’s problems transformed from being anger-oriented to being sexually-oriented.” In a plea agreement, the juvenile pleaded guilty to a lesser offense of “abusive sexual conduct with a minor who had not attained the age of 12 years,” violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2244(a)(5) (2012) and §5032.

The District Court Imposes Strict Sex Offender Conditions to Probation

The district court deemed the defendant a “juvenile delinquent” and sentenced him to eighteen months in a juvenile treatment facility and a term of juvenile delinquent supervision until he turned twenty-one. Further, the district court imposed four special conditions to his supervision

  1. a restriction on the defendant’s contact with children,
  2. choice of occupation,
  3. prohibition on loitering in specific places, and
  4. the use of computers and internet.

The juvenile appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, arguing that the district court had not provided adequate reasons for imposing the special conditions at the sentencing hearing, and failed to explain how the special conditions were reasonably related to the offense.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 3563(b), courts may place discretionary conditions on probation, so long as the conditions are reasonably related to the factors set forth in such deprivations of liberty or property and are reasonably necessary. In doing so, the sentencing court must consider the nature and circumstances of the offenses and the “history and characteristics of the defendant.” 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(1)(2) (2012).

The Big Issue Before the Fifth Circuit | Were the Special Conditions of Probation Reasonably Related to the Offense?

The big issue before the Fifth Circuit was whether the conditions imposed by the district court were reasonably related to the offense, and if so, were they reasonably necessary. Did the district court provide adequate reasons for imposing the four special conditions? As the case was a matter of first impression, the Court examined each special condition and concluded in a surprising manner with regard to the internet and computer use.

Condition One: Restriction on Contact with Children

Under the first special condition, the juvenile was “not to have contact with children under the age of sixteen without prior written permission of the Probation Officer.” Further, he was required to “report unauthorized contact with children to the Probation Officer.” On appeal, the juvenile argued that this special condition was a “much greater deprivation of liberty…than reasonably necessary.” However, the Court disagreed with the juvenile. “Considering the threat posed by the juvenile based on his conviction [and other noted behaviors on record], we affirm this condition.” Also noting that the juvenile could attend school with permission of the Probation Officer, the Fifth Circuit agreed with the lower court.

Condition Two: Choice of Occupation

Under the second special condition, the juvenile was “restricted from engaging in an occupation where he has access to children, without prior approval of the Probation Officer.” On appeal, the juvenile argued that the special condition was not reasonable and necessary because the offense was not related to work and that he would run a risk of never being able to be employed. The Court disagreed because the juvenile would be able to work upon prior permission from his Probation Officer. The Court affirmed the district court’s condition.

Condition Three: Prohibition on Loitering in Specific Places

Under the third special condition, the juvenile was not to “loiter within one-hundred feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, arcades, or other places primarily used by children under the age of sixteen.” The juvenile argued that the special condition was not reasonably related to his offense because his offense did not occur at a school. The Court disagreed. “The juvenile’s history of sending sexually explicit letters to girls at school means that he poses a threat to children at school.” The Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s special condition.

Condition Four: Computer and Internet Use

Under the fourth special condition, the juvenile was (1) not to possess a computer with internet access without the prior approval of the Probation Officer; (2) to submit to searches under the direction of the Probation Officer that could include software scans of his technological devices; (3) to consent to a key logger on his personal devices and to consent to a search of each internet query; (4) to inventory and to provide receipts for all devices and bills pertaining to the internet and technology.

The juvenile argued that the restrictions on his computer and internet use were not reasonably related to his offense, and that the special condition would prevent him from job searching, completing homework, and emailing his therapists. The juvenile argued that even though he could access the internet, to do so would place a heavy burden on him to request permission each time he accessed the internet, or to report any misstep such as an errant search or a “pop up” on the internet.

The Fifth Circuit points out that the juvenile is mentally ill and needs some internet oversight. “We affirm the monitoring provisions because we recognize [they] ensur[e] that the juvenile complies with the restrictions against accessing sexually explicit materials.”

However, the Fifth Circuit agreed with the juvenile on some of the internet and computer usage restrictions. “We must recognize that access to computers and the Internet is essential to functioning in today’s society.” The Fifth Circuit ordered the district court to construe the special condition so that the juvenile does not have to request permission from a Probation Officer each time he accesses the internet, removing what the Court deemed “a heavy burden” on the juvenile. Next, the Court modified the special condition that required the juvenile to provide receipts and payment records to the Probation Officer, “because the purpose is to verify that there have been no payments to an internet service provider, and payment for proper use should be made by the juvenile…there is no other basis to justify the restriction imposed by the [special condition].”

In sum, while the Fifth Circuit mostly affirmed the district court’s holding, it made some significant modifications where technology is concerned. Speaking to the hope of future rehabilitation, the Court added, “the juvenile may seek modification to any of the conditions, and the district court may lessen the burden of the [special conditions] if [his] behavior improves over time.”

Brass Knuckles, Silencers and Prohibited Weapons in Texas

What Weapons Are Illegal to Possess in Texas?

By | Weapons Charges

Prohibited Weapons in Texas | Are Brass Knuckles Illegal in Texas?

Brass Knuckles, Silencers and Prohibited Weapons in TexasYes, brass knuckles are illegal to possess in Texas. Under Texas’ Open Carry laws, qualified Texans can now carry a handgun in a holster on their waist just like they could in the Wild West. But there are still many other weapons that are illegal to possess or carry in Texas. Section 46.05 of the Texas Penal Code outlines the weapons that are prohibited to possess in Texas. The following is the list of weapons that are prohibited weapons in the state of Texas under Section 46.05:

  • Explosive weapons*
  • Machine guns*
  • Short-barrel firearms*
  • Firearm silencers*
  • Brass knuckles
  • Armor-piercing ammunition
  • Chemical dispensing devises
  • Zip guns; and
  • Tire deflation devices

*However, explosive weapons, machine guns, short-barrel firearms, and firearm silencers will not be considered prohibited weapons if the item is registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.  There is no such exception for brass knuckles in Texas.

What are the Consequences of Possessing Brass Knuckles or a Prohibited Weapon in Texas? | What is the Punishment for Possession of Silencers?

A person commits a criminal offense if they intentionally or knowingly possess, manufacture, transport, repair, or sell any of the prohibited weapons.

  • Possession of an explosive weapon, machine gun, short-barrel firearm, firearm silencer, armor-piercing ammunition, chemical dispensing device, or a zip gun is a third degree felony, punishable from 2-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
  • The possession of a tire deflation device is a state jail felony, punishable from 6 months to 2 years in a State Jail Facility and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Finally, the possession of brass knuckles is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by 0 – 365 days in county jail and a fine up to $4,000.

Defending Against a Brass Knuckles Charge | What Defenses are Available in a Prohibited Weapons Case?

For persons charged with possession of brass knuckles and other prohibited weapons offenses, there are several defenses that are recognized under the law.

  • It is a defense if the person’s conduct was in connection to the performance of official duty by the armed forces or National Guard, a governmental law enforcement agency, or a correctional facility.
  • Also, it is an affirmative defense if the person was dealing with a tire deflation device or armor-piercing ammunition solely for the performance in one of those official duties.
  • An affirmative defense is also provided to a person dealing with a short-barrel firearm or tire deflation device solely as an antique or curio.
  • Lastly, it is a defense if the possession of a chemical dispensing device if the person is a commissioned security officer and has received training on the use of the device by a training program provided by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement or approved by the Texas Private Security Board of the Department of Public Safety.

Prohibited Weapons and Brass Knuckles Defense Attorneys in Fort Worth, Texas

If you are under investigation for a prohibited weapons case or if you have been charged with possession of a prohibited weapon, contact our team of Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys today. We provide a free consultation on every criminal case. As avid hunters with military experience, we are familiar firearms laws and defenses in Texas. Contact us today at (817) 993-9249.

 

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Military Defendants in Texas Military Veteran Attorney

3 Things To Avoid When Representing a Military Defendant

By | Veterans

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.

Pointers on Being a Judge Fort Worth Criminal Defense

7 Pointers on Being a Judge

By | Ethics

Some Words of Wisdom From the Top Military Appellate Bench

Pointers on Being a Judge Fort Worth Criminal DefenseThis week I am taking a break from my Fort Worth criminal defense cases to attend a Continuing Legal Eduction at the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. I am a reserve military judge in the Marine Corps and this is one of the annual training requirements for military judges. In one of our periods of instruction, the Chief Judge from the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (the highest court in the military justice system) gave us seven helpful tips on Being a Judge. I found them to be simple yet incredibly insightful. As you read these, you’ll notice that they not only apply to military judges, but state judges, prosecutors, and criminal defense lawyers as well.

  1. Be Kind

  2. Be Patient

  3. Be Dignified

  4. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

  5. Don’t Be Dismayed When You are Reversed* (*or overruled for the trial lawyers)

  6. Remember That There are No Unimportant Cases

  7. Don’t Forget Your Common Sense

Simple, insightful, and easy to apply to our practice every day. We would all do well to observe these tips as often as possible. Practicing criminal defense in Fort Worth, I am fortunate to observe my colleagues, adversaries, and judges applying these pointers all the time. But sometimes there are cases or opposing counsel that tempt us to violate some of these rules (especially rules 1-3). I am thankful for the reminders and will continue to apply them to my practice both on the bench in the military and in the courtroom in Fort Worth.

Some of my other favorite quotes that tie in with this advice:

“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

-General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, USMC (Retired)

“All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.”

-Dalton (Patrick Swayze), Roadhouse

Tarrant County Veterans Court

Texas Broadens Eligibility for Veterans Treatment Courts

By | Veterans

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.

Fort Worth Texas Sexual Assault Attorneys

Politically-Incorrect Dissent on Sexual Assault in the Military

By | Sex Crimes

Fort Worth Texas Sexual Assault AttorneysThis opinion reflects the personal views of the author and should not be attributed to any agency or office.

There has been a lot of media attention recently on rape victims and the prevalence of rape in the military.  As some of the individuals retell their stories, it is clear to see that they suffered from a traumatic experience.  However, being in the military myself, and a former military prosecutor no less, I do not share the opinion that there is an “epidemic” in our ranks.  Does sexual assault occur in the military?  Absolutely.  But does it occur at a rate any higher than what you might find on an average college campus or in the public writ large?  No.  And when sexual assault allegations arise, are commanders sweeping them under the proverbial rug?  Certainly not!

One of the major differences in the military justice system versus the state criminal justice system, is that the District Attorneys in the states can evaluate the allegations, and if they decide that the case lacks prosecutorial merit, they can refuse to present the case to a grand jury for an indictment.  Another major difference is if the grand jury says there isn’t enough evidence, the District Attorney can’t go forward.  Neither of these checks and balances are found in the military justice system.

Instead, unit commanders (called Convening Authorities – usually Colonels and higher) decide whether a case should proceed to trial.  For felony-level cases like sexual assault, they must first receive a recommendation from a neutral investigator, but the ultimate decision on whether to go forward with a case rests with the commander.

The neutral investigator (called an Article 32 Investigating Officer) hears the evidence that the government has against the defendant and makes a recommendation to the commander.  This sounds fair so far, but when the investigator recommends NOT going forward on a sexual assault case because of deficiencies in the evidence, all too often the commander is faced with a dilemma: dismiss the charges as recommended or forward the charges to a General Court-Martial.  The easiest decision is to send it forward.

But can you blame them?  What are the commanders supposed to do when the deafening chorus of politicians and news anchors are calling for more accountability for “rapists” in the military?  Does anyone really expect a commander (typically a rising star in the military) to risk their professional future by refusing to send a rape allegation to trial and face being labeled by the media as “hiding rapists” or being “soft on sexual assault?” No way!  They are going to take the easy way out.  The politically palatable way out.  They are going to kick the can down the road to the prosecutor and let him take the case to trial, warts and all, under the guise of letting “the military justice system runs its course.”

Please do not read this to say that I think all sexual assault allegations in the military have no prosecutorial merit.  Many do.  But can we ever expect the commander to make the hard call to dismiss a case when it lacks merit?  Not any more.  And then when the prosecutors do their very best with a case that would have never gone to trial in a state system, we ask: Why can’t you get the conviction?  The prosecutors may possess the trial skills of Perry Mason or Clarence Darrow, but they can’t change the facts of the case, the rules of evidence, or the burden of proof.  These cases are seldom black and white.  And in a Constitutional system that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, convictions are (and should be) hard to come by.

With all of this going on (our focus on the victims), what is baffling to me, is that we are forgetting about the accused.  What happened to “innocent until proven guilty?” Congress is asking for more convictions; going so far to change the military sexual assault laws in a shameless effort to secure more convictions, while, the accused is labeled a rapist before even having his day in court.  This is terrible and antithetical to our criminal justice system.  We can’t simply jettison the Constitution when it is politically appealing.

McClatchy put out a pretty good article on this issue last week (LINK).  Of the many the media outlets that have focused on this issue, they are the only one, in my opinion, that has its priorities straight.  Sometimes justice means that a person is convicted of sexual assault.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  But this prejudgment of military defendants (or any defendants) has to stop.  By law, an accused is innocent until a verdict of guilty is returned and no sooner.

Military Sex Conviction in Texas

Military Sex Crime Conviction May Be Used for Enhancement in Texas

By | Sex Crimes

Military Sex Conviction in TexasRushing v. State (Tex.Crim.App. – Oct 5, 2011) – Here’s a case that interests me on a couple of levels.  When I was a prosecutor in the Marine Corps, one of the constant questions I received from defense counsel when negotiating a plea on a military sex crime case was how, and to what extent, the conviction will affect the service member in his/her home state.  I rarely knew the answer because many of the accused were from different states.  Well, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has confirmed that a military sex crime conviction, does have collateral consequences in Texas – one of them being that the conviction is able to be used for enhancement purposes in a later prosecution for a separate offense.

In Rushing, the CCA held that a prior sex-offense conviction under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) qualifies as a “conviction under the laws of another state” for enhancement purposes.  Texas Government Code §311.005(7) defines “state” to include any area subject to the legislative authority of the United States.  A UCMJ conviction is deemed to have taken place on United States soil and the defendant’s subsequent conviction is properly enhanced under Penal Code §12.42(c)(2)(b)(v) for that conviction.