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Military Spending Bill Creates Separate UCMJ Offense for Domestic Violence

The Galveston area is home to many U.S. military service members and their families. Although the vast majority of those who serve in uniform do so honorably and with distinction, there are unfortunately many cases where a member of the military is accused of a crime. And even when the accuser is a civilian, the serviceman is still subject to court-martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

On August 13, H.R. 5515 was signed into law. This is the annual bill appropriating funds for the U.S. Department of Defense. The signed bill includes a provision amending the UCMJ–effective January 1, 2019–to define domestic violence as a separate offense under military law.

According to the Military Times, the armed forces “have prosecuted such crimes in the past, but under more general justice categories such as assault.” This means that under current law, the military does not “separate domestic abuse crimes separately from other assaults in their record keeping.” So in many cases, civilian authorities are not made aware of a current or former service member’s domestic violence record.

This can have tragic consequences. Last year, a former airman in the U.S. Air Force shot and killed 26 people at a church 30 miles east of San Antonio. A court-martial previously convicted the gunman of domestic violence, but “civilian authorities were not properly notified of the crimes that would have disqualified him from buying firearms,” according to the Military Times.

This incident prompted legislators to introduce the domestic violence amendment as part of H.R. 5515. The amendment adds a new section to the UCMJ that defines a separate category of assault offenses to cover any person who “commits a violent offense against a spouse, an intimate partner, or an immediate family member of that person.” The amendment also clearly prohibits violating an existing domestic violence protection order issued by civilian authorities, or taking any action designed to “threaten or intimidate” a protected individual, including harming their property or pets.

H.R. 5515 also expands efforts to help victims of military domestic violence. For example, the law directs the Secretary of Defense to “establish a standardized expedited transfer process” for any service member who is the “alleged victim of sexual assault” or “physical domestic violence committed by the spouse or an intimate partner of the member.” This includes situations where the abusive spouse or partner is not a member of the military themselves.

Get Help from a Galveston Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Today

Whether it takes place in a civilian or military court, a domestic violence conviction can have serious consequences for your freedom and civil liberties. This is why you need to be proactive when defending yourself against all such allegations. If you need assistance from an experienced Galveston domestic violence lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates to schedule a consultation with a member of our team today at (281) 280-0100.