Domestic violence can be a crime that is hard to conclusively prove. Unless there are witnesses or physical injuries that result from the violence, alleged victims will have a hard time pursuing charges in court.

However, if someone goes to the hospital with obvious injuries or calls the police during an altercation with their romantic partner, someone could wind up arrested and possibly even facing charges for domestic violence.

Anyone facing violent criminal charges would have worrying consequences for their freedom and individual rights, but military service members are at particularly high risk for long-lasting consequences. How do domestic violence charges affect those in the military?

Civilian charges could lead to military consequences

It’s hard to know how prevalent domestic violence is among military service members, but there are thousands of cases reported each year, with countless other issues going unreported.

Generally speaking, the military does not take punitive actions against someone subject to a protective order or restraining order issued by civilian courts. However, things could be more complex if a military court issues such an order.

If there are criminal charges in state civilian courts, a military service member will not typically receive an attorney provided by the military like they might in other criminal cases. Additionally, they could be at risk of facing penalties from the military as well.

Their commanding officer has significant discretion regarding how their branch of service handles the accusations against them. Even if they don’t face penalties immediately, they could have their period of service ended early or find themselves unable to re-enlist later.

A conviction could affect your right to own a firearm

The right to bear arms and to potentially defend yourself, your property and your family is so important that the founding fathers included it in the Second Amendment to the Constitution. However, lawmakers have since added limitations to people’s Second Amendment rights.

Specifically, those subject to a domestic violence restraining order or convicted of a crime related to domestic violence could lose their rights to legally possess a firearm. Obviously, not being able to handle a gun could affect your military career, even if your commanding officer chooses not to pursue any disciplinary action against you.

Understanding the unique consequences that could affect you as a service member accused of domestic violence can help you better prepare to defend yourself.