FAQ

Can my commander or OIC order me to answer his questions?

No. Under Article 31, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), you cannot be compelled, forced or otherwise “ordered” to talk to anyone, including your commander, about criminal allegations that might later be used against you. If you are suspected of a crime and your chain of command (OSI, CID, NCIS, CGIS, or foreign agents) attempt to speak with you, they must first promptly inform you of your right to consult with a lawyer. If one is not immediately available, you are completely within your constitutional right to remain silent until provided with legal counsel.

How is the military justice system different from the civilian criminal justice system?


The military justice system actually has several advantages over the civilian criminal justice system. Most notably, you have the right to demand an Article 32 hearing prior to a case being referred to a General Court-Martial. This hearing is akin to a federal grand jury proceeding, with one significant addition.  You are free to openly contest the Government’s version of events before the case is even set for trial. Accordingly, you have the right to call witnesses, offer evidence favorable to your case, confront your accuser, discredit the Government’s case, and/or generally offer compelling evidence in mitigation or extenuation that might persuade the convening authority to send your case to a misdemeanor (Special Court-Martial) level court.

If my son is in prison must he be brought to court-martial within a certain period of time?

If your son is in military custody he must be brought to trial within 90 days. If he is out-of-custody, the military has 120 days to bring him to trial after the service of the charges. The Government’s failure to meet the above timelines could result in the dismissal of his charges.

What are the consequences of a court-martial conviction?

First and foremost, a General Court-Martial conviction is the equivalent of a federal civilian felony conviction.  However, if the imposed confinement is less than 1-year certain States “may” regard the conviction as a misdemeanor. Even so, unless your court-martial is overturned on appeal, the conviction will likely remain a permanent part of your civilian record.  Other potential adverse consequences include, but are not limited to: loss of pay, loss of security clearance, loss of health and educational benefits, loss of retirement eligibility, loss of right to travel abroad, loss of right to vote, loss of right to carry a firearm, and in sexual assault cases, the loss of privacy and the significant social stigma associated with sex offender registration.

Can my daughter get the characterization of her discharge changed even after the court-martial?

Each military service has boards that decide upon requests to upgrade and/or vacate both punitive and administrative discharges. Potential available legal remedies, if granted, include changing the reenlistment code to allow reenlistment, improving the characterization of the discharge and/or favorably modifying the narrative reason for the involuntary separation.

What kind of due process will my daughter receive during her administrative separation board?

She has a lot of options and associated rights. She may retain civilian counsel, ask for evidence, call witnesses and seek to discredit the Government’s case. Administrative separation boards are rather informal, but still often play-out as “mini-trials.” Military judges are not appointed to preside of these boards, however. Instead, typically three board members, none of them legally trained, will sit on her case; and ultimately make factual findings and concurrent recommendations. Simply stated, they will decide whether your daughter should be retained in the service. If they decide that she should not, they then recommend the type of discharge she should receive. There are three types of administrative discharges she could receive: an Honorable Discharge, General under Honorable Conditions Discharge; or an Other than Honorable Discharge. Notably, please be mindful she will be able to use her GI Bill only if she receives an Honorable Discharge.

My son has just been sent off to military prison, is he eligible for parole?

The Army Clemency and Parole Board is responsible for handling all claims associated with clemency, parole and mandatory supervised release hearings for eligible prisoners. For instance, in soldier cases Army Regulation 15-130 sets forth the parameters for relief.

Will my son still have the benefit of his military defense counsel even though we have now hired a civilian attorney to help represent him?

Civilian counsel and military defense counsel will often work together on his court-martial case. However, civilian counsel will likely take the lead (termed “first chair”) during the Article 32 hearing, all pre-trial hearings and during most of the trial.

I have heard back from my Informal Physical Evaluation Board, and the result is not good, what can I do next?

You should first make a request for reconsideration. If that proves unsuccessful, then request to appear before a formal board to demonstrate that you are either fit for duty, or deserve a higher disability rating. Expert witness testimony will prove critical in this regard, so make sure to get good experts on your side to clearly demonstrate the merits of your case.  You may also seek review of an adverse decision by the formal board with the Physical Review Counsel, and then finally the Physical Disability Appeal Board.

U.S. Air Force

Our aggressive defense of Air Force members has always been dedicated “to the warriors who go forth [into the skies] to find and defeat our nation’s enemies.” American Fighter Pilots I have been defending these men and women in blue since watching a “friendly” game of crud one night in Ramstein, Germany. It is always an enormous pleasure to immerse oneself into the technical complexities that Air Force careers demand. Over the years we have defended pilots, security forces and, of course, folks on the flight line.

Whatever your rank, worldwide location, charged offense, or circumstance, your invaluable life, or the life of your loved one, deserves more than just a competent legal defense.

Nuance: U.S. Air Force courts-martial are unique in their application of Rules for Courts-Martial 801(b)(2)(c) and Military Rules of Evidence 614 in having its judges proactively inviting panel (“jury”) members to ask for additional evidence, after trial and defense counsel rest, but before starting deliberations on the verdict.

U.S. Army

As a former U.S. Army JAG, I fondly recall the hard work, deployments and duties. Above them all, General David Petraeus is an American hero, and he, like many former U.S. Army Generals, have left an indelible legacy on what it means to serve. There is plenty to do. The U.S. Army leads the way, every year, in the number of courts-martial. Its legal experts are brilliant, and as such, have been tasked with training the other military branches, at the University of Virginia, on the rules, procedures and regulations applicable to military justice.

Whatever your rank, worldwide location, charged offense, or circumstance, your invaluable life, or the life of your loved one, deserves more than just a competent legal defense.

Nuance: U.S. Army military judges will not provide the “unsworn statement instruction” during presentencing should the accused wish to waive it; which is typically a good tactical decision. The other services will commonly provide it, however, even if the accused says no. Additionally, this service does a fine job of tailoring fines to offset confinement as detailed in Rules for Courts-Martial 1003.

U.S. Coast Guard

The Coast Guard is a fabulous service. These cases can take one to some far-off places around the United States, as Coast Guard bases are relatively small, and can also be rather isolated. Ultimately, despite some issues, its members have an uncanny knack for finding justice, such as in three notable cases our firm defended U.S. v. Daly, U.S. v. Cooley, and U.S. v. Riesbeck.

Whatever your rank, worldwide location, charged offense, or circumstance, your invaluable life, or the life of your loved one, deserves more than just a competent legal defense.

Nuance: This is the only service that allows the command to initiate involuntary separation even after someone is fully acquitted at court-martial. Over the past five years the U.S. Coast Guard has finally began detailing U.S. Coast Guard members to U.S. Coast Guard courts-martial, prior to that, the only non-Coast Guard members in the entire courtroom was the defense lawyer Navy JAG and yours truly. Put simply, it is nice to now see an even mix of uniforms.

U.S. Navy

It may be all that time underway, but I truly believe Sailors have the best sense of humor of the lot. It is always a distinct honor to represent officers, senior and junior enlisted Sailors. Even more, this service is likely the most practical in handling military justice cases. In other words, while the other services may occasionally seek to over emphasize certain aspects of a court-martial, U.S. Navy JAGs are fabulous at cutting to the root of the matter. It is also an added advantage that U.S. Navy Defense Service Office (DSO) JAGs have their own private investigator working in their office, no other branch of service has such a great resource on staff.

Whatever your rank, worldwide location, charged offense, or circumstance, your invaluable life, or the life of your loved one, deserves more than just a competent legal defense.

Nuance: Naval Prosecutors are particularly adept at negotiating pretrial agreements. They rely heavily on the concept of “probation” as Rules for Court-martial 1109 describes. On the other hand, Captain Masts can be a difficult hurdle when a Sailor is attached to a vessel, as trial by court-martial cannot be demanded.

U.S. Marine Corps

I served several months as a U.S. Marine Corps JAG, most memorably at Camp Pendleton. These are men and women that are not only mentally fit, they are equally physically and spiritually superb. It is always a distinct honor to be in these courts. Additionally, as an aside, I consider the U.S. Marines and U.S. Army to be related, like distant cousins, because their courts-martial panels (“juries”) have the same tendency to render relatively lenient sentences. Put simply, these two services, more than the others, seem to share a common bond of what it truly means to be in harm’s way, and accused who have been to combat undoubtedly benefit from this notion.

Whatever your rank, worldwide location, charged offense, or circumstance, your invaluable life, or the life of your loved one, deserves more than just a competent legal defense.

Nuance: Marines stationed overseas seemingly remain, among all the services, to be the most vulnerable to overseas law enforcement sting-operations.

Officer Board of Inquiry

* We have many positive reviews and counting. Here are some samples of what service members or their families are saying about us in the field.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    Army BOI

    Highly recommend Mr. Carpenter for Army BOI. He was superb during trial and very precise against the prosecutor. Result: I was RETAINED to stay in the Army. He did the impossible and made it possible for my family and I. Jason and Stephen did a amazing teamwork. I will never forget them and will always be thankful for what they did. Stephen is a Great person

  • ★★★★★
    5
    Board Found No Misconduct.

    I highly recommend using Attorney Stephen Carpenter for your legal needs. I contacted Attorney Carpenter after receiving notification of a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMAR). Attorney Carpenter agreed to take my case despite his full caseload. He immediately submitted his rebuttal that was used as facts for my Administrative Board Review. Attorney Carpenter rebuttal saved my 31 years of service in the United States Army.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    Incredibly professional and skilled lawyer

    Stephen crafted a masterful and persuasive defense that ultimately led the BOI to decide for retention. His attention to detail and ability to speak directly to a military board was invaluable. I would absolutely recommend his services to anyone who would require legal assistance in crafting and presenting their defense.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    Review for a BOI

    Stephen was exceptional, and a big reason that I still have a career right now. On the phone, he made himself available to answer burning questions that I had. In front of a board of inquiry, he was sharp, quick-witted, and practiced in a way that befits a man with his extensive experience.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    Retained by Board of Inquiry

    My sincerest gratitude for Stephen Carpenter’s successful BOI defense when wrongfully accused of SHARP claims alleged in the midst of the politically-charge, MeToo tsunami. It is a frightening process: being accused, receiving a GOMOR, and facing a BOI hearing with the burden clearly on the accused to prove innocence. Immediately upon hiring Stephen, he stood with me through the lengthy, bureaucratic process, providing support, counsel, rebuttals, and ultimately mounting a successful defense resulting in the Board’s recommendation of retention. Stephen saved my career, defended my honor, and restored my future through his diligence, utmost professionalism, and unwavering confidence.

Enlisted Separation Boards

* We have many positive reviews and counting. Here are some samples of what service members or their families are saying about us in the field.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    A Great Military Lawyer that cares about you and your family!

    I was caught in a whirlwind of false accusations and under investigation by NCIS. After eight months of not seeing my children due to a Military Protective Order, then another few months of not being able to communicate with or see my wife, it was obvious I needed more assistance than my appointed JAG lawyer could provide. I contacted Mr. Carpenter after doing much research to find legal counsel that dealt specifically with the military. I was very impressed at my first meeting with him and retained his services for my defense. He immediately fought so I could visit with my family and, ultimately, had the MPO rescinded. NCIS found no evidence to support the accusations and, after 1-1/2 years of ruthless investigation, my case was not sent to Court Martial. However, my Commanding Officer decided to send me to Administrative Separation Board (ASB), potentially ending my career in the Navy. Once again, Mr. Carpenter was fast to act. Due to his broad knowledge of the military and his ability to bring the best out of my appointed JAG lawyer, Mr. Carpenter put on a stellar defense. He gathered statements from family, friends, and co-workers through countless hours of interviews. Although a typical ASB takes one day, mine was two days, due to the abundant defense evidence to be presented and Mr. Carpenter’s veritable arguments. The ASB members returned a verdict of No Basis and Retention, thus allowing me to stay in the Navy and fulfill my goal to retire. Mr. Carpenter, literally, saved my family and my entire career. He still contacts me months later to simply see how things are going and discuss my career path. I strongly recommend Mr. Carpenter and his team for any military legal situations.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    Military Involuntary Separation Board

    Stephen Carpenter and his staff are an amazing team. I hired his services in November 2018 to represent me as my civilian legal counsel during a Military Involuntary Separation Board conducted in March 2019. Stephen fought hard for me. He went above and beyond and did everything he could to ensure a great outcome. Stephen and his staff were very professional and knowledgeable about all military legal matters. My opinions were valued and my doubts were always reassured. My needs were put first and I was treated as a friend rather than just a client. One of his staffers, Jason Greene kept in contact with me and provided me support every step of the way. He even took the time to sent me a congratulatory text after the final board determination. This level of care and support showcase the type of climate Stephen instill in his practice. I recommend his services to everyone with military legal matters. Thank you Stephen for all your hard work!

  • ★★★★★
    5
    Administration Separation Board.

    Mr. Carpenter superb expertise in military law and his firm determination in the pursuit of equal justice was awesome. I retained Mr. Carpenter to represent my son's sexual assault and DUI cases with the Army. The local police investigated the sexual assault case and turn it over to the prosecutor. The prosecutor decided not to prosecute the case due to a lack of evidence that a crime was committed. They turn the case over to the Army. Once the Army review the case they decided to prosecute. My son was facing dismal from the service and imprisonment At his trial, Mr. Carpenter was able to prove that the Army had no witness or evidence to convict my son and the case was dismissed. Mr. Carpenter tremendous research and tireless effort in the DUI case resulted in a rescindable of my son dismissal from the service with a General discharge to him being reinstated to active duty in the Army. Mr. Carpenter kept me informed and up to date on all issues pertaining to my son case. I would recommend Mr. Carpenter to any military member as he will pursue all avenues for the very best result.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    Administration Separation Board, Positive Urinalysis, Petty Officer First Class

    In March of 2016 I was notified of my medical retirement. Within days of that I was informed that I had shown positive on a command urinalysis for Oxycodone. The investigator informed me that I had an expired prescription. I was then informed of the next steps, which were XOI, Captains Mast, and ASB. I immediately did my reach on the best military attorneys. Every website and phone call I made indicated that Stephen Carpenter is the best there is. Stephen is a professional in every sense of the word. He knows his way around the courtroom and know's how to exemplify the facts. He was able to find facts the command didn't think to look into and also emphasize my medical conditons. Through his hard work and diligence, my board was a no cause found for separation, unanimously. My family and I cant thank him enough for what he has done. My name has been vindicated and I can walk around with the pride I worked so hard to achieve. Also his intern Jason Greene is phenomenal. That young man is going to make for an amazing attorney one day. Thank you Stephen. -Rob

Credentialing Boards

* We have many positive reviews and counting. Here are some samples of what service members or their families are saying about us in the field.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    A Military Diagnosis, 'Personality Disorder,' Is Challenged. NY Times

    Steve was referred by colleagues as “one of the best, if not the best trial attorney in the country, aggressive and a master strategist.” My case speaks to this. It was lengthy and complicated. I received a GOMOR for sexual harassment in Afghanistan and was ordered to undergo a Mental Health Evaluation. The psychiatrist had a condescending attitude. He feigned concern when I disclosed I had been assaulted and waved aside my distress. His diagnosis was Adjustment Disorder“ and recommended my immediate return JBLM adding “This is in my best interest” I requested a copy his note, but was denied. He said “behavioral health notes are released at the discretion of the provider. The contents may be traumatizing. “ I was in trouble. I had an “Adjustment Disorder” diagnosis placing me at risk for involuntary separation. The psychiatrist inferred negative information in my behavioral health record. There was a GOMOR in my permanent file. My commander was openly hostile and wouldn’t return my salute. I was facing certain administrative separation under Other Than Honorable (OTH) Conditions. I’d lose both benefits and my civilian position with DOD. I was despondent, but Steve would change that. I was able to get a copy of the psychiatrist’s note at JBLM. His diagnosis was not “Adjustment Disorder” as I was told, but “Personality Disorder.” Even more stunning, he said “Her command specifically asks for a diagnosis of a “Personality Disorder”, Important evidence confirming the long- held belief that Unlawful Command Influence is practiced by unethical, criminal commanders. Steve is always on-top. Characteristically, he contacted one of the most revered newspapers in the country, the NY Times, to publish the psychiatrist’s note. On Feb 25, 2012, my case appeared on the front page but, Steve wasn’t finished yet. He filed a Whistle Blower complaint against my command that ultimately made its way to the Army IG at the Pentagon who requested my sworn statements. Steve’s excellence appeared to be acknowledged by my command. During the course of my case, I received three separate Board notifications. Steve responded to each and each time, my command retreated. I never had a Board hearing nor was I separated for a personality disorder or misconduct. My characterization of service was honorable. That’s how good Steve is. Steve’s expertise is matched by his compassion. My case went on for 6 years. Resignation with OTH Conditions was out of the question so I road it out. During that time, my command targeted me with reprisals that leveled the life I had built. If not for Steve’s steady support, I would have taken my life. In the end, the VA rated me as 100% disabled from PTSD and spinal injuries. I was medically retired from my position with DOD for PTSD and was granted Social Security Disability for PTSD. The presiding Secretary of the Army, however, would not acknowledge my PTSD. To my knowledge, I’m the only military member on record who was denied medical retirement under these circumstances.

Reprimands & Promotion Boards

* We have many positive reviews and counting. Here are some samples of what service members or their families are saying about us in the field.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    1LT

    Mr. Carpenter is a stellar lawyer who is persistent in the matter at hand. Because of his dedication and determination navigating the chain of command, I was fully exonerated and my promotion was reinstated. He saved my career.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    Professional service with personal attention.

    Stephen and his team provided winning results in my case involving a GOMOR. He ensured that my voice was heard by crafting thorough, convincing arguments in my favor. From my initial, inquiring phone call through the successful resolution of my case, Stephen was responsive to my concerns and willing to listen to my side of the case. Stephen has a commanding knowledge of military justice and , more importantly, understands how to present information to senior leaders.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    Favorable outcome for Command Investigation

    I was 1 of 2 subjects of a GO-directed investigation, and was facing a potential permanent GOMOR. I spoke with 3 other civilian attorneys, and I extremely happy to say that I chose Stephen. He remained actively engaged with my investigation, even while working several other cases at the time. Diligent and aggressive, Stephen guided me through the process, engaged the command's legal advisors, and helped craft my response. In the end, I avoided a GOMOR, resumed my career, and have since made the promotion list. I highly recommend calling Stephen, as soon as you are read your rights.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    Highly recommend

    Stephen prepared my file for a PRB. I was selected to MAJ then notified the next day I would face a PRB for something that occurred in my previous assignment. I was devistated. I reached out to Mr. Carpenter who was professional from the start. He felt confident the outcome would be favorable and it was. Because of him I now have the opportunity to continue to serve and I am planning my promotion party!!

  • ★★★★★
    5
    GOMAR success

    In May 19, 2018, I received a General Officer Letter of Reprimand (GOMOR) for something a legal adviser thought was my fault. The first few days was stressful because I have 10 days to explain to the General why I wasn’t guilty. By my experience, almost every Soldier who gets a GOMOR is separated from the Army. But after I hired Mr. Carpenter it was a big relief. Mr. Carpenter got in contact with those legal advisers, which are things I couldn’t do because I must follow my chain of command. On July 13, 2018, I received the good news that my GOMOR was filled “locally.” I know of Soldiers who got involved in an incident and went to legal on post a month later; and are still awaiting a decision. I am really happy with Mr. Carpenter’s representation of me and would highly recommend him to every Soldier that needs help with a GOMOR rebuttal. He saved my career.

Court-Martial Defense

* We have many positive reviews and counting. Here are some samples of what service members or their families are saying about us in the field.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    The Best Defense Attorney

    The best attorney that you can hire. Mr. Carpenter was not the first attorney I contacted, I had consulted with two previously, but I knew from the start that he was the one that would best represent me. Both Mr. Carpenter and Jason Green worked on my case. I first hired him when I was facing a field grade Article 15. We had multiple conference calls to weigh the options of accepting or turning it down. I faced losing my rank over a misunderstanding. Ultimately, I turned down the Article 15 and it was preferred to a Summary Court Martial. When the trial date came, Mr. Carpenter and Jason Greene did a phenomenal job defending me. We had the advantage of not having a Trial Counsel (prosecutor) present. Closing arguments are a very powerful tool that, when used effectively, can tip the scale into one side’s favor. For the sake of time, trial had taken all day, Mr. Carpenter’s closing argument was brief. However, it had conveyed a very powerful message to not just the SCMO, but to everyone in the courtroom, myself included. A message that was expanded on the next day. The following day, he submitted his written argument. Mr. Carpenter did an outstanding job at highlighting the flaws of the case. Both his closing and written argument gave me confidence that I had made the right choice. In the end, it resulted in an acquittal of both charges. If you find yourself as a defendant in the military justice system, Stephen Carpenter is the best civilian defense attorney you can hire. His reputation speaks for itself, both in the courtroom and out.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    Get him on your case STAT; he is a winner and will fight for you every step of the way.

    Mr. Carpenter focuses his legal "laser beam" on the prosecutor case and zooms in on its weaknesses and flaws. He then work with you to let the Board/Panel see how weak and unsupported it is. His extensive experience enables him to read the Panel/Jury members like a book, and he diligently draws the path to your acquittal for them to take. Steve wrote the book on military law technicalities. If OSI/CID/DNI made mistakes in investigating your case he will hold them accountable, and have the flawed evidence thrown out. Be prepared to work hard! He WILL visit to scene or work ceaselessly for 14-16 hours in a day, if this is what it takes to prevail in court. Mr. Carpenter is a brilliant and tough negotiator. What he may secure for you in a settlement can save your career and/or deliver you to your goal line. He is easy to reach for emergent developments, and super easy to get along with; two of the most important aspects to evaluate before hiring ANY attorney. If you are a service member who found himself in military legal misfortunes--HIRE STEVE!

  • ★★★★★
    5
    Sexual Assault Case

    Mr. Carpenter was the best attorney I could’ve hired for this case. He handled it with absolute care and precision and ensured that my worries/concerns were dealt with. He is very knowledgeable and was adamant on getting all the information necessary and presenting the proof to get the case closed in a very timely manner. Highly recommend this Attorney/Law Firm if God forbid you ever find yourself in a situation such as this!

  • ★★★★★
    5
    US Navy Officer Case Dismissed

    I hired Stephen to work on multiple cases and situations for me, and ultimately he worked on a misdemeanor that carried a large fine and jail time. He was on top of everything and worked to settle the case out of court. Stephen stayed after the "victim" and made sure that not only was she made whole and respected, but that I was treated fairly as well. After a little over a year Stephen and I appeared before a judge and the case was formally dismissed with no repercussions from the military or civil justice system.

  • ★★★★★
    5
    the only one who responded

    I sent many messages to attorneys in the area. The only one who replied was Stephen Carpenter. I highly appreciate this. Thank you