Being arrested as a soldier or some other military affiliate differs quite a bit from being arrested as a civilian. After all, as a member of the armed forces, you are subject to higher expectations in both your professional and personal conduct. If you are arrested while you are enlisted, what happens to you might be different from what happens to a civilian in several ways. While there are some minor advantages, there are also serious consequences.
Let’s start with the pros…
Getting Legal Advice
As a member of the military, you have access to the legal assistance office. If normal civilian legal fees would be a significant hardship for you, you could qualify for help. Married soldiers who are in the E-4 grade or below and single soldiers in E-3 or below generally meet the requirements. The legal assistance office can provide preliminary legal advice in criminal matters and let you know your best options.
Postponing Court Appearances
Military commitments, especially during a time of war, can make it difficult to attend court dates. While a judge won’t grant you a delay for matters of convenience, you can get delays if your military service means you are unable to appear in court. Still, you should always apply for the shortest delay possible and try your best to appear in court on the original schedule.
And now for the cons…
Reductions in Rank
If you are ultimately sentenced to a year or more in prison, your rank will be knocked down to private. Someone who is sentenced to 30 days or more in jail but less than a year can be reduced one or more pay grades. You can also be denied promotions because of criminal matters outside of the armed forces.
Losing Your Security Clearance
The military takes security seriously, and they will pull the clearance of someone who they consider an undue risk. Criminal activities are one of reasons for losing clearance. Drug or alcohol abuse is also considered grounds for suspension or revocation of your clearance.
Separation for Misconduct
You could also find that arrests for serious charges can lead to the end of your military affiliation. If your arrest is part of a pattern of behavior that is considered troublesome, you could be discharged. While you are still eligible for some military benefits, you lose access to education assistance under the GI Bills. If your separation is ruled “Discharge Under Other Than Honorable Conditions,” the consequences could follow you for the rest of your life, leading to lost veterans’ benefits including pension, health care and other concerns.