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Civilian Lawyer vs Military Lawyer: What’s the Difference?
When facing a court martial, contrary to popular opinion, you can have your choice of legal representation. You can either have your case presented by a JAG attorney, or you can have a civilian military criminal defense lawyer in San Diego by your side in the courtroom. In order to reach an informed civilian lawyer vs military lawyer decision, you first have to be aware of the differences.
They follow different rules and procedures
When it comes to JAG attorneys, or military attorneys as they are commonly known, the rules they have to abide are instated by the UCMJ, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Every process connected to military law is proscribed by the UCMJ, and all JAG attorneys have to strictly adhere to it.
As for civilian lawyers specializing in military law, the matter is a bit different. Although they do, when trying a military offense, have to abide by the legal routine of a court martial, they are still largely bound by civilian rules of conduct.
This means that, in certain cases, a civilian lawyer involved in a court martial case can have more freedom to explore the case from different angles, and employ different research procedures. This often proves beneficial to the defendant.
The process for appeals is different
Court appeals, whether they occur in military or civilian courts, bear the same significance. They allow the person not satisfied with the court’s decision to try and have the case reevaluated by a higher legal authority.
You might think that the civilian lawyer vs military lawyer debate is not necessary in this aspect, but the truth is somewhat different. The main and the most important distinction is in the sole process of filing an appeal to the court.
In the military, every branch has its own appellate court, responsible for the appeals submitted by the personnel of said branch. The appeal always follows an identical chain of command, and there is no way for the process to be sped up, or for an appeal to miss a couple of links of the chain.
Civilian lawyers, on the other hand, are used to fighting their cases in a different manner. There is no one path set in stone for appeals after civilian appellate courts. An appeal can be forwarded to either circuit courts, or federal courts. Thus, a civilian lawyer is prepared for any and every eventuality, making him or her better prepared for the appeal process, be it in civilian court or court martial.
Civilian lawyer vs military lawyer training
As you may have guessed, the training that civilian lawyers and military lawyers undergo is, also, rather different.
In the military, not every service member has the necessary prerequisites to become a JAG attorney. You have to do a lot more than just wear the uniform actively. All members of the JAG Corps are legal attorneys first and foremost. That means they have to possess regular attorney credentials before taking up special training for handling all the nuances of military law.
Now, this may lead you to believe that JAG attorneys are, because of additional training, the correct option for every court martial case. However, it’s not quite simple as that.
It is true that military lawyers are well versed in military law, and that there are few unknowns in this regard. And that’s something that really instills confidence in a court martial. There is one downside to that, though, and it is the back of the same coin. Being trained profusely in military law by members of the military means that JAG attorneys are also trained to follow military procedures to the letter.
Civilian lawyers have not been shaped by the military, and it isn’t a bad thing. It is a misconception that a civilian lawyer cannot be as proficient in military law as a JAG attorney. No, it simply means that, in most cases, civilian lawyers are not nearly as prone to adhering to stringent military procedures all the time. They are well capable to, if needed, bypass them, thus potentially helping their client. JAG lawyers are simply not allowed to do so.
Differences in jury
Although not a difference between military and civilian lawyers, we fell it is utterly necessary to discuss the differences in jury as well, since it is the jury that will ultimately reach a decision, and state the sentence.
In civilian courts, the jury always consists of 12 jurors, never more, never less. Plus, the jury in civilian courts has to consist of peers, i.e. regular people from all wakes of life. Lawyers can then proceed to select the jurors that they find could have a clearer understanding of the case in question.
In the army, the juries are quite smaller, ranging from three to twelve jurors. It all depends on the type and the level of court martial. And, the main difference is that the jury in a court martial only consists of commissioned officers.
The other major difference is that there is no hung jury in court martial. Whereas a civilian court requests a unanimous decision of the jurors, military courts only need a two-third majority. This means that there may be occurrences of unjust decisions reached by a less-than-unanimous jury.
Lastly, in a court martial, the military only states a single sentence for all of the individual’s crimes. In the civilian system, the jury votes separately for every offense, and delivers separate verdicts.
Although we haven’t provided any answers to the civilian lawyer vs military lawyer question in this instance, we hope you are altogether more familiar with the differences in legal proceedings between the military and the civilian lawyers and legal systems.
Civilian lawyer vs military lawyer – still don’t know which is better for your case? Don’t worry, we have the answer!
Vik Monder is the best criminal defense attorney in San Diego, and that’s a fact. And, not only that, but he knows how stressful a court martial can be for active military personnel put on the spot. That is why he has worked hard to assemble the best team of civilian lawyers specializing in military law at Monder Criminal Lawyer Group. We can lend you our expertise even in the confines of the military. Contact us today for a free consultation!