Military Administrative Action-A Covert Weapon Against Your Career
In the minds of most, military justice is synonymous with a Court Martial. If they think about military justice at all, they probably envision something out of Hollywood – Lieutenant Kaffee thundering away at Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men, or Lieutenant Greenwald eviscerating Captain Queeg on the stand in The Caine Mutiny. But only a tiny fraction of the allegations made against Service members are resolved at trial by Court Martial. In the vast majority of cases, accusations against a service member are both investigated and adjudicated administratively. And while the military characterizes administrative sanctions as not “punitive”, the fact is that they can have a ruinous impact both on your career and on your life afterward. If you find yourself the subject of any kind investigation or corrective action, it is imperative that you take it seriously and mount a vigorous defense from the beginning.
In some respects, disposing of a matter administratively as opposed to by Court Martial or non-judicial punishment benefits the Service member, since it doesn’t result in a criminal conviction and any corrective action taken cannot be punitive – the Service member cannot be sentenced to a term in jail. But it isn’t out of any sense of compassion that the military makes such extensive use administrative remedies. The Armed Services dispose of allegations administratively because it allows them to impose severe penalties on Servicemen and women at a much lower cost and, most importantly, with a much lower burden of proof. In a trial by Court Martial, the Government must prove the allegations against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. But imposition of administrative sanctions, such as filing a letter of reprimand in a Service member’s personnel records or administratively separating a Soldier with an unfavorable characterization of service, the Government must only prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence – in other words, that the allegations are more likely true than not. Furthermore, only crimes may be punished at Court Martial. But the military can hold its personnel accountable by administrative means for all manner of errors in judgement or regulatory infractions.
Administrative action can have a devastating impact on your career. Allegations found to be substantiated by an IG or command investigation can delay or even stop promotions even if no further action is taken. Disciplinary action limited to a letter of reprimand can result in a reduction in grade upon your retirement if filed in your official personnel records. And it goes without saying that a poor performance evaluation can not only destroy your chances of promotion, but even result in early separation from the service.
If you find yourself facing any kind of investigation or inquiry into your conduct or performance, the best defense may be a good offense. Because it is always harder reverse the findings of an investigation after it is concluded, or to overturn any adverse administrative sanctions on appeal, it is imperative that you mount a vigorous defense from the beginning of the proceeding. Let the skilled attorneys of SRIS Law Group help you today!
If you need help with an issue related to the UCMJ, do not hesitate to contact us. We understand that in a lot of instances, the UCMJ can have a significant impact on your life and how your career is a vital part of your life. Take any alleged violation of the UCMJ seriously and contact us for help. We have the support and help you need.
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