In this video, I want to discuss the real cost of a court-martial conviction and/or a discharge from the military. My name’s Michael Waddington, I’m a criminal defense attorney. I’ve represented hundreds of clients, charged with anything from triple murder, rape, drug trafficking, separation boards, and everything in between. If you want to check out my bio and background, please go to my website at ucmjdefense.com. I’ve handled all sorts of cases. Those in which the charges were dismissed or dropped, prior to the charges being preferred or filed, all the way up to cases that went to a jury and they were all over the media. One thing that we do is take seemingly unwinnable cases, represent underdogs, and fight for the rights in the military justice system. Below you’re going to see some of the places where our cases have been featured and covered, which includes Academy Award-winning movies, books, CNN. You name it, our cases have pretty much been everywhere in the media.
Real Costs of a COURT MARTIAL Conviction and Discharge
There are no guarantees in life. Hiring a civilian defense lawyer does not guarantee a particular outcome. I encourage you to speak with an expert military lawyer to discuss your options and the specifics of your case. Beware though, not all civilian defense lawyers are the same, just like not all military members are the same. There are high-level performers and those performing at a much lower level. You’ll want to compare the experiences and background of the attorneys you’re speaking with and/or considering hiring. However, let me remind you, past performance helps to predict future performance in everything from sports to military performance as well as when hiring a criminal defense attorney.
This may apply to you. You’re either charged, under investigation, facing a separation, or some other type of punishment in the military. You know you need the best lawyer possible but you’re scared, losing hope, you don’t know where to turn and you might not trust the system or your chain of command. You should be scared because a court-martial and separation from the military can ruin the rest of your life and the lives of your family members. I would not encourage you to sit back and roll the dice. Most people who roll the dice and gamble, lose! You also have to be very careful because it is a possibility that you could be appointed a free military lawyer that has never won a jury trial when defending a client. Let’s say your child has a serious disease, let’s say a tumor, God forbid and there are only a few doctors that are experienced at successfully removing that tumor and you go to the military hospital and are given a brand new surgical resident who’s never done this procedure before but the person’s free right? Would you settle for that person knowing that the odds of success are not as good? I would hope not. Again, past performance helps to predict future performance in pretty much every situation in life.
People call all the time and we listen to their side of the story and when we get down to it they say, “I can’t afford to hire an experienced lawyer. I’m either going to go with whoever they give me or I’m going to hire someone who’s cheaper because I talked to a guy down the street who will do it for next to nothing.” Do you think you can’t afford an experienced lawyer? You can’t afford not to and I’m going to go through some of the numbers and the things you’re going to be facing if you don’t go into a court-martial or separation board ready to rock and roll with the best lawyer possible.
Here’s the bottom line, if you’re facing a court-martial, separation or are under investigation and you’re in the military then you’re in the fight for your life. I look at it like this, if you’re in a gunfight who would you want to back you up? Would you want a special operations team, that is highly skilled to do this day in and day out with backup supports and heavy firepower or would you want one unskilled, unprepared man to back you up? I would not put my life or my kids’ life in the hands of the latter. So what’s at stake? Most military defense lawyers and civilian lawyers aren’t going to tell you upfront what you’re looking at. They’re going to beat around the bush and make it sound like it’s not a big deal and make prison sound like it’s a walk in the park. Well, here’s what you’re really facing if you’re facing a court-martial. You’re facing being locked up in federal prison for what could possibly be years.
The fact is being in prison is not a pleasant outcome for anyone. We all know what happens in prisons, although it may not be like many state prisons, the potential for sexual assaults, disease, and the inability to see family are still very present. You’re also facing a federal conviction which can amount to a total of $3.5 million in potential lost income. As a registered sex offender for those facing sex crimes, you can end up with no job, no family, and no friends. You can receive a dishonorable discharge and loss of family. I can’t begin to tell you how many families break apart as a result of even a simple military case, even a separation. It destroys families and the lives of everyone involved. You’re going to lose all paid allowances if you’re going to prison for a certain period of time. They don’t generally pay you to sit in prison. You could also lose millions in retirement, your military job, and benefits. You will have a hard time finding a job, lose your education benefits, and may even be required to pay back your education benefits. You will lose your possessions. Many choose to try to save money by going with the free attorney and end up losing their house, cars, and boats.
You will also lose things you can’t put a price tag on, such as waking up in your own bed next to your loved one, having romantic relations with the person of your choosing, seeing your children, visiting your family, having fun, attending your children’s birthday parties and school plays. On top of all that, you will lose the respect of those around you and lack respect for yourself. You will also lose all bonuses, VA benefits, medical insurance, your right to bear arms, vote, hold government jobs, or be involved in labor unions. You will basically be made a second-class citizen in the country you served.
Now you understand what you could potentially lose and what you could be facing. If you’re scared, you should be but you should not be in complete despair. You can often fight your way out of these situations if you make the right choices. However, again, going with the cheapest choice is not a good idea. A lot of people will call me saying, “I talked to this other guy, he does family law. He does a little bit of everything and he’s a lot cheaper than you are.” Well, don’t expect a Dodge to perform like a Ferrari (1). Is it cheaper? Yes. Will it perform better? It depends. If you’re trying to haul 50 kids to a softball game, maybe the Dodge Caravan is better but if you’re trying to win a race and kick some butt then you need to go with the Ferrari. There’s no comparison. You often get what you pay for.
I encourage you to write this part down to look at while you’re figuring out whether you can afford a military lawyer or whether you should hire a military lawyer or a civilian military attorney. I picked two different pay grades; E-7 w/ 14 and O-4 w/14. I’ve added in Pay, BAH, Medical, Tax Savings, and other benefits. This would be what you’re looking at, about $70,000 as an E-7 and about $112,000 as an O-4. That’s about $5,700 a month versus $9,300 a month, that’s what you’re getting paid. If you go to jail, that stops.
Now, let’s add those up over time. If you’re an E-7 and you’re discharged or jailed, below is what you’re going to lose in terms of income. One month in jail and $5,700, maybe not such a big deal, that’s assuming you don’t get kicked out of the military. An O-4 would lose about $9,000. As you know military sentences are generally pretty stiff. So at six months in jail, you’re going to lose about $34,000 aside from all the other factors of being in prison. As an O-4, you’re going to lose about $56,000. As you can see, the numbers will simply continue to increase the longer the sentence.
Let’s say you retire as an E-8 at 20 years. Your first year you only make about $26,000 but the beauty of retirement is, you get that until you die. So assuming, that you live for another 40 years and a lot of people retire at 38-40 years old, you’re looking at another 40 years of retirement pay and medical benefits. The numbers below came off of a DoD website. By the time you’re 30 years out of the military you’re looking at about $72,000 you’re going to be making with inflation per year. By the time you’re approximately 70 years old, you will have lost out of $1.3 million. If you live another 10 years, which would be when you really need the money the most, you’re looking at a total loss of about $2.2 million total or $100,000 per year plus medical benefits. You’re talking a lot of money. You have to save that retirement at all costs if possible.
As an O-5, retired at 20 years, would be making about $46,000 to start within retirement pay. That’s often more than the cost of the typical civilian attorney. If you go straight down to the bottom right-hand side, you’ll see that you’re going to be losing out on about $3.9 million and that number can go up, assuming you live more than 40 years past retirement, which is pretty common now. By the time you hit 70 to 80 years old, you’re going to be bringing in $127,000 to $179,000 per year.
If you’re accused or suspected of any kind of sex crime, this includes the things you may not consider serious, like grabbing someone’s butt, which is unwanted sexual touching, you will face potential sex offender registration if you have a sex offender conviction. Even if you don’t see a day in jail, this will apply to you in most cases if you’re convicted. You’ll have your name, face and address posted on the internet. Every time a crime occurs, your name will come up as a local sex offender. You will be very limited with where you can live. Google, “Places where a sex offender can live” and you’ll see the limited options. You will be stuck living in the outskirts of town in a trailer park somewhere with a bunch of other sex offenders. (3) If you do have neighbors, most of the time, they will be aware that you are a sex offender or you will be required to tell them. You will most likely be hated and forced out of the neighborhood. Imagine going to the local barbecue and everyone knows you’re a sex offender. Who’s going to want to be your friend? It’s going to be tough. You also cannot live near a school, daycare, park, or public pool and you cannot go anyplace child congregate to include; movie theaters, malls, sporting events, libraries, and your child’s school.
There will also be employment consequences. If you’re a sex offender, who’s going to hire you? As a sex offender and federal convict, you’re going to be limited to hard labor jobs. I had a client say, “Oh, no big deal. I’ll start my own business.” Well, guess what? In most states, if you’re a convicted sex offender, you cannot possess or own anything that connects to the internet to include; phone, computer, iPad, television, and even some cars that have an internet connection. So good luck starting a business unless you’re picking up dog crap in someone’s backyard or mowing lawns. Even then, how are you going to print flyers and check your bank account statements if you’re a sex offender and you don’t have internet access?
The family consequences are heavy as you will not be allowed to be around children in most cases unless you’re supervised and you get permission. That means no family birthday parties, barbecues, sleep-overs for your own kids, family reunions, little league ball games, movie nights, etc. It’s mind-boggling to think about the lifestyle changes you’re going to have to make. Here’s a fact, most men lose their families and children after a sex offender conviction. If you’re not in divorce right now and you end up in a divorce, this is going to be grounds to take custody from you. Your ability to be a dad will be severely limited. There are some laws out there that require you to have a neon green, sex offender license plate.
Now I think you understand the serious stake and why it’s important to bring someone on to your case that is experienced, has a proven track record, and not just going with the cheapest guy.
You may be wondering how you can pay for a civilian lawyer. We get asked this question in almost every case. Some people pay with credit cards, some have savings or family members to support them, some have cash in their TSPs or stocks, some sell their cars or boats, mortgage their house, and/or borrow the money. If you don’t take this seriously, it’s going to impact you for the rest of your life.
If you want to contact us to discuss your case, you can call us at 1-800-921-8607 or email us at [email protected]. I encourage everybody to exercise due diligence. Look into the background, testimonials, client reviews, and the track record of any attorney that you’re considering hiring. Don’t just look at someone’s website and be fooled by pretty pictures and captivating words. You want to see some proof and background of the attorney’s experience before you give them your hard-earned money because if you give some lawyer $20,000 to $30,000 dollars and then you get into court and you find out that attorney has only won three cases in his entire life, just got off of active duty, and really doesn’t know what he’s doing. You’re then stuck with that attorney that isn’t very skilled and probably isn’t going to get the best outcome possible. So if you have any questions, check us out online, give us a call and set up a consultation but I encourage people to not call me if you’re not serious about fighting your case and protecting your rights. We often vet our potential clients and figure out if it’s even a case we want to take if it’s a case worth fighting and then figure out if we’re a good fit. Please give me a call.