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Marsha411JD, Lawyer
Category: Military Law
Satisfied Customers: 19690
Experience:  Licensed attorney and former Navy JAG serving ashore, afloat and at the OJAG
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My son is being charged with altering a military ID. His ID

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My son is being charged with altering a military ID. His ID was scratched while on weekend liberty with his family. He showed the Lieutenent where he was completing clinicals. Later at lunch it was thrown away and he and his shipmate were unable to find it. When he returned to base and reported it, the NMTI said that if roommate had not been caught underage drinking and altering id's over the weekend, it would be fine. Unfortunately, it was his roommate so they don't believe that his was scratched accidently and he is being charged with altering it and making a false statement. They have taken his certificate for A school graduation, moved him to a hold unit and have begun proceedings for a Captain's Mast. What are his rights and what steps should he take to secure them. The Cheif said he looks in his eyes and believes him but doesn't get the warm fuzzies?

Thank you for the information and your question. However, I am a bit confused. What does your son's scratched ID have to do with underage drinking and how is he allegedly involved in that? Also, what part of the ID was scratched? Picture, DOB or what? How long has your son been on active-duty?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

my sons room mate was in trouble for altering his own ID so he could buy alcohol. My son's ID was scratched on the back. My son graduated from boot camp this last march 22 2013. He was told this wouldnt be an issue if his room mate wasnt in trouble for altering IDs. He is basically guilty by association. They think he is lying so they are charging him with a false statement.

Hello again and thank you for the additional information although there are still some facts missing since there has to be a connection between the scratch and underage drinking for him, that would have warranted him even being questioned and charged. Also, it is relevant what "on the back" of the ID was scratched. That is why I asked about what specifically was scratched out. If the DOB, then that might be the issue that even got the attention of the Command. The issue with his roommate, in the Command's viewpoint, is likely that they were both engaged in the same behavior or that your son knew what was going on. That I can't guess since I don't have the file in front of me and the facts in possession of the Command. Unfortunately, neither of us do, and your son only has the facts that he knows and not from the Command's perspective.

In any event, he can, and should have already, gone to speak with the local judge advocate office that assists in personal representation and defense. They would have counselled him about his rights, in particular is right to refuse NJP (Captain's Mast.) Since he is not attached to a ship, he can refuse it. However, that means that then the Command could refer his to a court-martial if they think they have enough evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. At Mast, the Captain must just believe that the evidence supports the charges by a preponderance of the evidence, which is less that beyond a reasonable doubt. That is because this is an administrative hearing and not a criminal trial.

Your son, has the right, but does not have to, make a statement at Mast and present any evidence that he may have to support his position.

If the Captain does award him punishment at Mast, he can appeal the findings to the next level up (the Admiral) and the Admiral's judge advocate will review the case for sufficiency of the evidence. They can set aside the punishment or uphold it. If they uphold it, then that is the end of the process.

If you have any specific follow up questions, please feel free to ask them. I would be glad to assist you further if I can.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

he is being charged with two articles and so far hasnt been given any opportunity to speak with defense counsel, at first he was told he wasnt entitled to it since this wasnt a court martial. there were some scratches around the DOB on his card, the were horizontal. He couldnt find his ID so there isnt any real evidence just it looks like he threw it away to get out of trouble. It is all circumstantial. What could the punishment be?

Thank you for that information. On his NJP rights form that he is supposed to read and sign it specifically says he has a right to speak to a PERSREP attorney before he decides whether or not to accept Mast. So, perhaps he hasn't received his package yet. Hopefully he didn't receive his package and accept Mast without speaking to an attorney.

Can you tell me what your son's rate (rank) is and I can tell you what the potential punishment could be?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

he is E3, i think the under age drinking thing was the catalyst that set this off and that so many others had altered their IDs it went to the CO. Right now anyone born on or around 1994 who lose their ids are being scrutinzed. What sucks is my son wasnt on base when this went down and had no idea it was happening

Thank you Aaron and I agree that it is sometimes a guilt by association. I have listed below the possible punishments he can recieve. Generally, it will only be restriction, being reduced in grade and some money, but it can include anything I listed below.

By commanding officers in grades O-4 and above

    (1) Reprimand.



    (2) Forfeiture: not more than 1/2 of one month's pay per month for two months.

    (3) Reduction: one grade,

    (4) Extra duties: not more than 45 days.

    (5) Restriction: not more than 60 days.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Restriction like jail? How will this affect his next command? Can they take is HN (corpsman) away? He is supposed to report to Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton by the 28. Also he was given a paper to sign that said you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an atty paid for by the navy or by you or both, and it basically said he would talk and they got mad when he was reading it ans asking what it all meant.

No, restriction, just means he can't leave the Base. He could still do anything else on the Base that he would normally do, just not leave the Base. That may or may not be part of the punishment, but it can be.

This goes in his records, so if he were to get into trouble again, it could put him in jeopardy of being administratively separated. If he is busted (reduced in rate), then yes, he could lose his A school. Most of the time though, at this stage in his career if he is a good sailor other than this issue, the CO might suspend his punishment (meaning not execute any of it) and let him continue as a HN.

The statement he received was the statement I was talking about which would have given him a right to go talk to a JAG before deciding whether or not to accept Mast. He had he right to take that paperwork to the JAG to ask them what it all meant. The Command cannot give him legal advice and can only allow him to read it and either sign or not and speak to an attorney for clarification. So, that is probably what the frustration had to do with. I can't really say. He can tell the Captain about that, but he might just want to stick to the facts of his case and be as respectful and unargumentative as possible when he is in front of the CO, so that he doesn't get the max punishment just because the CO thinks he has a attitude. I am sure you know what I mean. It works the same in civilian courts. Never want to make the person who has control over your punishment mad.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

he hasnt had any other trouble or "chits" against him. They didnt give him the opportunity to talk to an atty they wanted him to sign it immediately. He wasnt asking for advice or legal help he just didnt understand what it all meant, this is is first time besides enlisting he has had to read any legal jargon like this. This is the closest he has come to any trouble anywhere in his life, never been reprimanded in the Navy until this. I told him to call the Navy Legal and tell them whats going on.

He should speak to someone senior in the chain of command if he was not told in writing, or otherwise, that he could go speak to a Persrep attorney before he made a decision about Mast. Again though, he can tell the Captain as well.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I have told him to continue to talk to Navy legal, it can't hurt. This is really depressing him that he is getting in trouble for telling the truth his morale is really down and this embarrassed him in front of his class. They are kicking around the idea of an open mast in front of other classes, can they do that?

You're right, it can't hurt. Yes, open Mast is legal, just like an open trial is legal. This is not unusual in a training Command especially with young people when there seems to be an epidemic or trend of a certain type of behavior. It is considered a type of deterant, which is one of the theories behind any type of punishment, criminal or administrative.

I can understand that he is down about this, but it doesn't have to be a career ender and he can still make his case to the CO. He shouldn't get too down about this.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

yeah we kind of figured that they were going to use this for that. It would be nice if that was the extent of punishment, he really takes being in the Navy serious and would never do anything to endager his respect honor or his position in the Navy.

He should tell the CO that at Mast. There are many sailors who had early blips in their records that go on to a full and successful career, so he shouldn't think this is going to stop him.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for your time and the piece of mind.

You're welcome and best of luck to you and your son in his career!

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