Enlisted soldiers have access to a number of resources on base, including legal assistance. Because of this, service members often assume that the military will provide them with an attorney if they run into legal issues. You need to know that the military will not cover attorney’s fees for soldiers, except under very specific circumstances.
Our legal team detailed a few of the most common scenarios we see in the descriptions below.
So, When Will the Military Cover Attorney’s Fees?
If you encounter a legal issue off post
If you’re arrested off post, the military will not cover your legal fees. You need to hire your own attorney. Soldiers don’t usually qualify for public defenders, so you will have to retain a criminal defense attorney for yourself. The military will not cover expenses or legal fees related to off-post legal matters.
The same goes for Family Law cases like divorce or custody matters. While some of these cases can technically be handled pro se (without a lawyer), legal matters can get complicated for military families. See our articles on military divorce matters and child custody for more information.
**We suggest booking a free consultation with an attorney before trying to start any legal process on your own.
If you get arrested on post
If you’re arrested on post, the military will very rarely cover your legal fees. The military courts, like civilian courts, do have a public defender system. However, most of the time you will be required to hire your own attorney. In other words, don’t rely on the military’s public defender system. Be proactive and schedule a consultation with an attorney.
**Check out our blog post on choosing the right defense attorney for additional insight.
If you are charged with a court-martial
Court-martials are the exception. The military can provide you with an attorney (a JAG lawyer) under these circumstances. You may also choose to hire a private attorney, or you can choose to have both a JAG lawyer and a private attorney. However, keep in mind that the military will only cover fees for a military (JAG) lawyer in these cases.
**Our firm is one of just a few local law firms qualified to represent defendants in Court-Martials. Should you choose to hire a private attorney, you can certainly book a free consult with our firm.
Some Final Thoughts & Resources Related To Legal Representation for Active Duty Soldiers:
Bottom Line: If you run into legal issues as an active duty soldier, you will need to retain your own attorney. Court-martials are the only exception. Although attorney’s fees are not covered by the military, there are a number of legal services they do provide. The American Bar Association has a detailed overview of the services that are covered by Military Legal Assistance.
If you or your loved one are in need of legal representation in a criminal defense or family matter, reach out to us today.
For additional updates and information on our local court, their departments, as well as our elected officials, visit the Montgomery County Circuit Court Clerk website.