Service Members

Killeen Servicemember Criminal Defense Attorneys

Protecting your military career and rights in Harker Heights, Waco, Copperas Cove and across Central Texas

Anyone facing criminal charges is likely feeling confused and uncertain about what’s going to happen next. If you’re a member of the United States Armed Forces, however, an arrest can be doubly stressful. In addition to wondering how a criminal conviction may affect you as a civilian, these charges can have an even bigger effect on your military career – perhaps ending it altogether.

At the Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm, our criminal defense attorneys know what’s at stake for those who serve, as well as their families. Mary Beth Harrell has spent decades here in Texas as both an Army wife and mom. Her respect for the U.S. Armed Forces makes her passionate and successful in defending our servicepeople when they’ve been accused of crimes outside of military installations like Fort Hood. Don’t put your career and veteran’s benefits at risk. We can help.

Can an arrest record keep me out of the military?

Yes, it can. Our country has high standards for every branch of the Armed Forces, and this includes high moral character. Many of our clients ask us if they can join the military with a misdemeanor or felony on their records. Unfortunately, a criminal record can prevent you from not only enlisting in the military, but also from re-enlisting. In some cases, however, it may be possible to secure a waiver for certain misdemeanors. These are typically decided on a case-by-case basis, but common charges that may be waived include:

  • Minor drug offenses
  • Traffic misdemeanors
  • Vandalism and other non-violent crimes

Our attorneys can provide knowledgeable guidance about any arrests and charges in your past, and how to prove that you’ve been rehabilitated so you may embark upon or continue with your military career.

Moral standards of enlistment

When applying to any branch of the service, recruiters perform a background check. Any run-ins with the law may be investigated – even arrests that didn’t end in convictions. Military.com discusses which types of individuals may be barred from military service due to criminal activity, including those:

  • Convicted of felonies – although they may request a waiver as discussed above
  • Under any form of judicial restraint, including probation, bond, imprisonment or parole
  • Who have been previously released from military service under conditions other than honorable or for the good of the service
  • Who have exhibited antisocial behavior or other personality traits that would render them unfit to associate with military personnel
  • With significant criminal records

What happens if I’m arrested while enlisted?

If you’re arrested for a crime while off base, whether it’s anything from DWI to assault, you’ll not only face civil criminal penalties, but you’ll face consequences within your branch of the military as well. You could lose rank, your right to a promotion or any other number of punishments affecting the trajectory of your career. A criminal conviction can result in the following consequences:

  • Loss of employment. In some cases, a serious criminal offense will lead to your discharge from the Armed Forces altogether. A dishonorable discharge means you won’t be eligible for benefits like health insurance and a pension.
  • Loss of rank. Depending on the offense, you may find yourself bumped down a rank or two, as well as becoming ineligible for promotion. Some servicemembers may even lose their level of pay grade.
  • Loss of security clearance. You could lose or have your security clearance reduced due to criminal activity. The military only grants high security clearance to those with clean criminal records.

It’s essential to have an experienced defense lawyer on your side with the resources to fight all charges against you, to protect your reputation and your military career.

What is the Texas Veterans Treatment Court Program?

If you are a veteran and are convicted of a crime, you can potentially lose your benefits and pension. However, you may be eligible for Veterans Treatment Court, a diversionary program for veterans facing prosecution for a criminal case. This program is designed to take veterans with substance abuse problems or mental health issues out of the criminal justice system and into more appropriate rehabilitative alternatives. The goals of this program include:

  • Improving access to mental health and addiction treatment
  • Improving long-term mental health or addiction recovery via long term and structured treatment
  • Reducing jail time and resolving charges related to mental health, addiction, PTSD and traumatic brain injury issues
  • Reducing repeat offenses through successful treatment and community reintegration
  • Reducing state costs around unnecessary incarceration

Our criminal defense attorneys can talk with you about determining your eligibility for Veterans Treatment Court and how you may apply for the program. There are Veteran Treatment Courts in almost every county in Texas.

Will a DWI get me kicked out of the military in Texas?

Charges for driving while intoxicated is a serious offense for anyone, but if you’re serving in the military, the consequences can be even more severe. Conviction for a DWI offense in the civilian world comes with potential penalties like loss of driver’s license, fines, jail time and a permanent criminal record. But it can also affect your military career. If you’re arrested for a DWI off-base, you could experience on-base repercussions, including:

  • Demotion
  • Loss of pay grade
  • No chance of future promotions
  • Prohibited from re-enlistment
  • Separation from the military

Remember, though – an arrest isn’t automatically a conviction, and our DWI defense attorneys have many strategies at our disposal to fight the charges against you.

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Does a dishonorable discharge affect gun ownership?

Some serious criminal convictions may lead to a dishonorable discharge. And, federal law prohibits anyone who’s been discharged from the military under dishonorable conditions from owning a gun. This is outlined under the 1968 Gun Control Act.

Generally, individuals who’ve been convicted of severe criminal offenses like sexual assault or murder will be dishonorably discharged. The only way to legally possess a weapon again is to have your gun rights restored under the jurisdiction where you were convicted. Our criminal defense attorneys can talk to you about your case and your eligibility for restored firearms ownership.

Trusted criminal defense for military men and women in Texas

The members of the U.S. Armed Forces work to serve and protect the rights of our citizens. The Killeen attorneys at the Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm are proud to protect your rights when you need it most. We defend accusations and charges against you when you’re arrested for a civilian crime – because you need to protect your military future. Let us help. Contact us today at 254-680-4655 or by filling out our contact form. We have offices in Killeen, Copperas Cove, and Waco, and handle in-custody visits for clients who cannot come to us.