The military takes all drug issues extremely seriously. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) prohibits the use, possession and distribution of many controlled substances. Additionally, all branches of the armed forces take what amounts to a zero tolerance position on drug offenses. If you are convicted of a drug offense, you can expect harsh consequences. A drug charge can destroy your military career and even cost you your freedom.
Additionally, the military, as a jurisdiction, is unique in that it can even bring criminal drug charges against a person based only on the results of a urine sample test. The bottom line: if you are facing any type of military-related drug charge, you need to seek professional legal assistance today. You may be facing administrative sanctions (nonjudicial punishment) or even a court martial. Protect your legal rights and get your case into the hands of an experienced military drug case attorney.
Understanding Military Drug Charges
In the U.S. military, you could potentially face serious punishment regardless of where your drug issue occurred. You do not have to be on active duty to face punishment. Indeed, even if you were found to be violating drug policies while off-duty and off-base, you could still end up before a court martial. There are several different types of circumstances that could trigger a military drug case, including:
- Testing positive for an illicit substance;
- Refusing to supply a requested drug test sample;
- Tampering with a drug test;
- Getting caught in possession of illicit drugs;
- Getting caught in possession of certain banned drug-related paraphernalia; and
- Distributing drugs in any manner, either through sale, trafficking or cultivation.
UCMJ Article 112(a): Drug Charges
The vast majority of military drug cases are brought under Article 112(a) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. More specifically, this section of the UCMJ allows for the following six types of cases to be brought:
- Possession with intent to distribute;
- Wrongful use;
- Wrongful distribution
- Wrongful introduction, with intent to distribute;
- Wrongful manufacture, with intent to distribute; and
- Wrongful exportation or importation.
Each of these charges has the potential to come with harsh penalties. Ultimately, the penalties that a defendant will face will always depend in part on the specific circumstances of their case. Though, it should be noted that punishment often includes separation from the military (on less than honorable terms) and, in some cases, it could include extended time in jail.
The Most Common Drug Charge: Wrongful Use
While military members can, and are, sometimes charged with distribution offenses, far and away the most common drug charge is that of wrongful use. One of the things that makes UCMJ wrongful use cases notable is that the military can bring punishment based primarily on lab tests. While military service branches have the power to bring these types of cases before a court martial, most of the time, wrongful use cases are dealt with via nonjudicial punishment (NJP). Still, nonjudicial punishment is by no means a simple slap on the wrist. These punishments can still be quite harsh. Indeed, accepting an NJP in a drug case often leads to one’s eventual separation from the armed forces.
How to Defend Military Drug Cases
Consider NonJudicial Punishment
If an NJP has been offered in your case, it is your right to either accept that nonjudicial punishment or go before a court martial instead. Should you accept the NJP? There is no definitive answer to this question. Too many people carelessly consent to a nonjudicial punishment. While in many drug cases, NJP is the best available option, this is certainly not always the case. There are upsides and downsides to a nonjudicial punishment. Remember, by avoiding a court martial, you are also losing out on your access to the military court system. This means that you are giving your commander full power to make a decision on your case and on your punishment. In certain cases, it is better to hire an attorney and to aggressively defend drug charges before a court martial rather than simply accepting an NJP. Ultimately, whenever possible, you should consult with an attorney before deciding whether or not to accept nonjudicial punishment in your drug case. Your attorney will be able to review the charges against you, as well as the evidence regarding your case, and determine how to best protect your legal rights and your professional interests.
Address the Evidence Directly
A proper legal defense is always individually tailored to the specific facts of the case in question. To defend the drug charges against you, your UCMJ attorney will need to address the evidence put forth by the prosecution. In the majority of wrongful use cases, the results of a drug laboratory tests make up part of the prosecution’s evidence. But are these tests reliable? Not always. Put simply, unknown infestation occurs, false positives happen and drug test results are sometimes contaminated or mishandled by labs. It is imperative that your attorney has a full understanding of how these tests work and how the related case law applies in military court. This is especially important considering the fact that case law is currently in flux. For example, recent decisions from military appeals courts have increased the burden that prosecutors must reach in cases where they are relying heavily (sometimes even exclusively) on drug test results. Too often, military prosecutors rely largely on lab samples and testimony from compromised witnesses (alleged co-conspirators) to prove their case. Your attorney needs to have a full understanding of this lab evidence, as well as any evidence presented against you, so that they can best defend your case.
Get Legal Help Now
If you are facing drug charges, you need a zealous and effective legal defense. At the Law Office of Jocelyn C. Stewart, we have handled all types of military drug cases. To request a consultation, please call our team today at 253-212-9582. From our office in Tacoma, Washington, we defend members of all military branches, including those stationed at bases overseas, such as in Italy, Germany, South Korea or Japan.