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Domestic Violence
and Intimate Partner Violence

Article 128b, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ): Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence

What to do if you are a military member accused of domestic violence or facing court-martial for Article 128b, UCMJ

Being accused of domestic violence can result in criminal charges, jail time, punitive discharge, involuntary separation, and lifelong prohibitions on firearm possession, among other consequences. A military member can face some of these consequences even if their case is never taken to trial. It is imperative to get a military lawyer to assist on your case.

The prevailing attitude is that domestic violence is a problem in the military and needs to be addressed harshly. Therefore, military members who are accused of domestic violence or intimate partner violence should expect to face some form of adverse action, even in cases where there may not be much evidence to prove the allegations, or where the allegations are false or fail to tell the whole story.

The experienced attorneys at Kral Military Defense can defense you at a court-martial, discharge proceeding, or in an investigation for domestic or intimate partner violence. We can help you navigate the limits of confidentiality with FAP, your spouse, and mental health care providers to ensure your own words are not used against you at court-martial or in other actions.

Our lawyers can explain the implications of the action you are facing for both your career and your civilian life and ensure you make an informed decision about what to do in your case. An accusation of domestic or intimate partner violence can have lifelong consequences on both the military and civilian side.

You need an attorney who knows what is involved in a domestic violence allegation – from the moment it’s made through all the administrative and criminal consequences. For an overview of domestic violence accusations in the military, read below. To discuss your case, contact KMD for a free consultation.

There have been recent changes to domestic violence law in the military.

In January 2019 the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) was changed to add Article 128b, which specifically criminalizes domestic violence and intimate partner violence. Prior to the addition of Article 128b there was no independent article of the UCMJ dealing with domestic or intimate partner violence.

Cases involving domestic violence or intimate partner violence used to be charged under Article 128, UCMJ as assault consummated by battery or aggravated assault as appropriate for the facts of the case. But now, domestic violence has its own independent punitive article in the UMCJ with Article 128b, UCMJ.

The addition of a specific UCMJ article to address domestic violence coincides with the push for military leaders to do more about domestic violence in the military. Service members accused of domestic violence are at risk for career-ending, lifelong, and potentially criminal consequences.

Why was Article 128b, Uniform Code of Military Justice, Domestic Violence Added to the UCMJ?

If domestic violence was already illegal under the UCMJ, why was a whole new article added in 2019 to specifically say domestic violence is illegal?

The primary reason for the addition of Article 128b, UCMJ is access to firearms. The Lautenberg Amendment is a federal law that makes it illegal for anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence to possess a firearm. This prohibition on gun possession applies to military members who are convicted of domestic violence at a special court-martial or general court-martial.

A key method of enforcing this law is that law enforcement entities are required to report domestic violence convictions to a central database. When someone, for example, then goes to purchase a firearm or get a job requiring working with firearms and a background check is done, any disqualifying convictions will pop up. The person would then be barred from purchasing the firearm or getting the job.

The issue with the military system was that Article 128, UCMJ covered both crimes that do not constitute domestic violence as well as crimes that do constitute domestic violence. As a result, it was not apparent whether a conviction of Article 128, UCMJ was for domestic violence or not. As a result, military crimes that involved domestic or intimate partner violence were often not recorded as domestic violence convictions, but simply as assault.

Assault can be, but is not necessarily, a disqualifying offense for gun ownership under the Lautenberg Amendment. The formerly broad nature of Article 128, UCMJ meant that oftentimes, military crimes of domestic violence were not properly reported. Thus, military members who were not legally allowed to possess firearms were able to buy guns because their domestic violence convictions were not accurately reported to the database.

This issue was spotlighted in November 2017 when a former Air Force member, who had been previously convicted of domestic violence at a court-martial, perpetrated a mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  The shooter killed 26 people using a firearm he purchased after he had been convicted in 2012 of domestic violence at a court-martial and had received a bad conduct discharge.

He had been able to purchase the firearm used in the mass shooting because the military had not properly recorded his conviction in the national database. Victims and families of the mass shooting sued the Air Force due to the failure to properly report the shooter’s court-martial conviction.  The court determined the Air Force was at fault for the shooting and the case was settled after the United States Government agreed to pay the victims $144.5 million.

Article 128b, UCMJ was primarily established to eliminate any confusion on which Article 128, UCMJ convictions constituted domestic violence and which ones did not. The change helps ensure domestic violence convictions are properly and accurately reported in the central database to prevent this type of tragedy in the future.

Now, law enforcement officials do not have to decipher whether an Article 128, UCMJ conviction is for assault that does not require reporting or whether it is for a crime of domestic violence, which does require reporting. Any conviction of Article 128b, UCMJ must be reported as a crime of domestic violence and anyone convicted at a special court-martial or general court-martial of Article 128b, UCMJ is legally barred from possessing a firearm.

What is illegal under Article 128b, UCMJ, Domestic Violence?

The actual text of Article 128b, UCMJ is a little confusing, as it references multiple other provisions in explaining what is illegal under the law. And the text of the law can also be a bit hard to find. The 2019 version of the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM) does not have Article 128b with the other punitive articles. Instead, the text of Article 128b is in an appendix in the Manual for Courts-Martial.

Article 128b, UCMJ, for domestic violence criminalizes the following:

  • Committing a violent offense against a spouse, an intimate partner, or an immediate family member,
  • Committing any other crime under the UCMJ against a person or property with the intent to threaten or intimidate a spouse, an intimate partner, or an immediate family member;
  • Violating a protective order with the intent to threaten or intimidate a spouse, an intimate partner, or an immediately family member;
  • Violating a protective order with the intent to commit a violent offense against a spouse, an intimate partner, or an immediately family member of the accused;
  • Strangling or suffocating a spouse, intimate partner, or an immediate family member of the accused.

For purposes of Article 128b, the definition of a “violent offense” is an offense that has an element that includes the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another. “Spouse” is defined as one’s husband or wife by lawful marriage.

“Intimate partner” is much broader. An intimate partner is

(a) a former spouse;

(b) a person with whom one shares a child in common;

(c) a person with whom one cohabits or with whom one has cohabitated as a spouse; or

(d) a person with whom one has been in s social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature, as determined by the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, and the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.

The definitions and elements of Article 128b, UCMJ mean that an extremely broad range of actions taken against a broad range of people constitute domestic violence.

Additionally, violations of Article 128b, UMCJ tend to come with higher court-martial maximum punishments than the same offenses that are committed against someone who is not a spouse or intimate partner. The maximum confinement authorized at court-martial for committing a violent offense against a spouse or intimate partner is the maximum jail time for the underlying offense plus three additional years.

What this means is, for example, assault consummated by battery of someone who is not a spouse or intimate partner under Article 128, UCMJ carries six months of maximum confinement. That same assault consummated by battery committed against a spouse or intimate partner carries a maximum jail term of three years and six months.

Strangulation of a spouse or intimate partner under Article 128b, UCMJ has a maximum confinement term of eight years, whereas strangulation of someone who is not a spouse or intimate partner would likely constitute aggravated assault under Article 128, UCMJ and has a maximum confinement limit of five years, and grievous bodily harm must result from the assault.

In addition to confinement, a conviction of Article 128b, UCMJ can also result in a punitive discharge (bad conduct discharge or dishonorable discharge, depending on which specific provision of Article 128b, UCMJ is violated), reduction to E-1 and forfeiture of pay and allowances.

What are the possible consequences of being accused of domestic violence?

Punishment at a Court-Martial

If a military member is found guilty at a court-martial for domestic violence he/she could be punished with reduction to E-1, forfeiture of pay, years in jail, and a bad conduct or dishonorable discharge. Also, the Lautenberg Amendment would apply to any conviction for domestic violence at a special court-martial or general court-martial, regardless of the punishment imposed by the court.

Inability to Possess a Firearm as a Result of a Court-Martial Conviction

This means a military member who is convicted of domestic violence either at a court-martial or in a civilian court is not legally allowed to possess a firearm in any capacity. This disqualification from possessing a firearm is permanent. Military members who are convicted of a crime of domestic violence cannot attend firearms training and cannot be issued a firearm. Obviously, being ineligible to handle a firearm can negatively impact or even end a servicemember’s military career.

Administrative Separation or Discharge for Domestic Violence

Military members accused of domestic violence also face significant, career-ending consequences even if their case never sees the inside of a courtroom. An accusation of domestic violence can result in involuntary separation or administrative separation from all the military services. Every military service has some provision to facilitate involuntary discharge of service members thought to have committed domestic violence even if the military member has not been criminally charged or taken to court-martial.

In the Navy and Marine Corps, an accusation of domestic violence triggers mandatory discharge processing of any Sailor or Marine. For members of the Navy, MILPERSMAN 1910-233 mandates separation processing where the CO deems there is reliable evidence that a member committed “violent misconduct”. For Marines, the MARCORSEPMAN, MCO 1900.16 requires mandatory ADSEP processing for any Marine “determined to have committed an offense of child abuse or domestic, intimate partner, or immediate family member abuse. . .”.

While the discharge regulations for the Air Force, Space Force and Army do not require mandatory discharge processing for accusations of domestic violence, Airman, Soldiers, and Guardians accused of domestic violence can be discharged for commission of a serious offense.

DAFI 32-3211 contains the Air Force and Space Force’s policy dictating that members can be discharged for domestic violence via the commission of a serious offense provision. Additionally, in January 2023, SECAF directed a 90-day cross functional review to assess domestic violence in the Department of the Air Force, stating: “Domestic violence has no place in our Air and Space Forces-it breaks the bonds of our service family, destroys individuals, families, and our communities, and is illegal.”  The expressed attitude of Air Force and Space Force leadership is that those who commit domestic violence have no place in their ranks.

Enlisted Soldiers accused of domestic violence face discharge for commission of a serious offense under AR 635-200. If a Soldier is discharged for domestic violence or dependent abuse, the commander is required to include that information in the separation action.

Army Officers can be involuntary separated for an “act of child/spouse maltreatment or abuse and/or other acts of Family violence.”

Military Consequences for a Civilian Domestic Violence Case

A military member can be subject to discharge for domestic violence even if the case is handled entirely in the civilian law enforcement or legal system. Every branch allows a member to be discharged for a civilian conviction. The definition of “civilian conviction” is not limited to being found guilty after a civilian trial. The definition of a “civil conviction” for discharge purposes is much broader and includes things like deferred prosecution, or an order to dismiss charges after the accused completes probation. This means a military member could still face discharge for domestic violence accusations that are handled by the civilian system even if the member does not face trial or plead guilty in the civilian court.

Family Advocacy Program and Domestic Violence

Service members accused of domestic violence or intimate partner violence are typically referred to the Family Advocacy Program. If FAP refers a member to a rehabilitation, educational, or counseling program to address allegations of domestic violence and the service member fails to complete the program or is involuntarily disenrolled, the member can be involuntarily discharged from the military.

Members accused of domestic violence should keep in mind there are limits to confidentiality with FAP. Any statements made to FAP personnel could be used against them for adverse actions or potentially even at court-martial. If you are called into FAP as a result of a domestic violence allegation, reach out for a consultation to discuss your rights and options.

Reenlisting After a Domestic Violence Accusation

Furthermore, even if a service member accused of domestic or intimate partner violence is not taken to court-martial or involuntarily discharged, he/she can be barred from re-enlisting due to an accusation of domestic violence. An allegation of domestic violence can also mean active-duty members are ineligible to join the reserve forces when they leave active duty, or use other programs like Palace Chase.

Military Protective Order for Domestic Violence

From a more personal standpoint, an allegation of domestic violence or intimate partner violence typically results in the issuance of a Military Protective Order (MPO) or a no contact order. Usually, commanders will use their authority to issue either an MPO or no contact order prohibiting contact between the service member and the spouse or intimate partner making the allegations.

Some commands even have their own policies that mandate a set period of separation when allegations of domestic violence are made. For example, the servicemember and their spouse could be separated for at least 72 hours after a reported incident of domestic violence. Commanders have the authority to keep the MPO or no contact order in place for as long as the commander deems it appropriate, and can set the parameters of the order.

The military member does not have the right to a hearing or opportunity to rebut an MPO or no contact order before it is issued.  While the term MPO and no contact order are often used interchangeably, they are different. An MPO is more formal, must be in writing on the DD Form 2873, and are filed in official law enforcement databases.   A no contact order tends to be less formal, can be issued verbally or in writing, and are not filed with law enforcement.

Typically, whether the order is an MPO or a no contact order, the order will prohibit any contact or communication, either directly or through a third-party, between the accused member and their spouse or other victims of the alleged offenses. In practice, this means that a military member could be forced to move out of their house if they share a home with the alleged victim, be prohibited from talking to or seeing their spouse, and have limited contact with their children for an indefinite period of time.

Contact an attorney right away if you are accused of domestic violence

There are numerous collateral and career-ending consequences that stem from an allegation of domestic violence, even when a case never goes to trial. In addition to legal and career implications, domestic violence accusations can impact personal aspects of a military member’s life such as where he/she can live, the ability to spend time with their families, and private firearm ownership.

Ensure that you have lawyers with the experience, knowledge, and dedication needed to handle all aspects of your case, and call KMD for a free consultation.

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*Please note, KMD does not handle cases involving the Department of Veterans Affairs, disability claims, or family law matters.

My local Military Defense Counsel is very short staffed so I had trouble getting a hold of them. Not wanting to wait I contacted Ms. Danielle Espinosa over the weekend and she was able to help review and discuss my response with me before it was due Monday. She was extremely knowledgeable, cut the fluff and told me like it was. I recommend anyone serious about the future of their Military Career to work with this team. Thank you for your help!
When I retained Ms. Kral, I was a nervous wreck. As she worked with me over the course of 18 months, she was compassionate and was able to assure me that I would have a future. Even my command JAG assured me I’d be alright when I hired her. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome with my case. Ms. Kral should be your choice if you need a military defense attorney.
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Chad S.
Abbigayle Hunter and her legal team, especially Danielle Espinosa, were exceptional! The communication was prompt, professional, and thorough. From the moment we reached out to them, they showed a genuine interest in understanding our case and providing us with the best legal representation possible.Abbigayle Hunter and Danielle Espinosa, went above and beyond to ensure that we were kept informed throughout the entire legal process. They promptly responded to our emails and phone calls, addressing any concerns or questions we had. Their attention to detail and extensive knowledge of the law instilled confidence in us that we were in capable hands.Not only did Abbigayle Hunter and her team provide us with excellent communication, but they also displayed a remarkable level of expertise. They meticulously examined every aspect of our case, leaving no stone unturned. Their dedication and commitment to our case were evident in the meticulous research they conducted, the thorough documentation they prepared, and the persuasive arguments they presented.Abbigayle Hunter not only possessed an impressive understanding of the law but also had excellent negotiation skills. Her tirelessly advocated on our behalf, ensuring that our interests were protected and our rights were upheld. Their ability to navigate complex legal matters and maneuver through any obstacles that arose was truly remarkable.
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Rufus Byrd
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Steph and her team worked diligently to ensure all evidence or lack there of was thoroughly examined. Her knowledge and experience within the military justice system gave me piece of mind throughout the process as she was well versed in the way everything played out. My family and I are grateful for the hard work and professionalism displayed by everyone on her team. Thank you!
Jonathon Lynch
Jonathon Lynch
Hiring Steph has been the greatest thing for my career. In the last year alone I have had horrible encounters with my immediate chain of command and twice I had the best outcome given the circumstances. I highly recommend Steph.
Eva Aguilar
Eva Aguilar
Steph was the first and clear choice to handle my ADSEP board. I was facing serious allegations, which she handled with professionalism while keeping me posted along the way. Her expertise in UCMJ matters is second to none. Without her I would have probably lost my retirement benefits.
Called on behalf of a veteran who is terminally ill regarding a discharge upgrade and spoke to their assistant Christian. Christian was so unbelievably rude and spoke to me like I'm an idiot when he was unable to answer the questions I had about their services and the process. The level of disrespect from him totally caught me off guard given the nature of work the office is supposed to be doing. What's more upsetting is the lack of empathy that he displayed during our conversation. Unfortunately, I can't not speak on the level of service from the attorneys since we decided to go with someone else but Christian either needs to undergo more training or he needs to be replaced.
Desiree M.
Desiree M.
Stephanie is very experienced and a great attorney.
Jameel Yusuf
Jameel Yusuf
There are many things that I could say about this particular law firm, but instead of going into the weeds on my particular case, I feel as though brevity would be the best choice here. I was primarily represented by Ms. Abbigayle Hunter, and in short, I believe the representation by Ms. Hunter was above reproach. I couldn’t have asked for a better legal professional to handle the complexities of my particular case. She was transparent, punctual, and actually made me feel as though she was personally invested, despite the fact that she had already been paid for representation. She didn’t sugarcoat hard truths and was very up front about all different aspects relating to my case. It was comforting in a way that she was also a fellow service member, and it made me feel as though she took this case to heart and it added another level of drive to the case. Ms. Hunter has a certain tenacity in the courtroom that I found very refreshing to witness, and I would strongly recommend her to anyone else seeking legal advice. Would actively seek to be represented by her again, though also hoping it’s never needed.
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Tim Malikie
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Jamal Stephens
Jamal Stephens
After my command refused to give me due process, I was lost for words and truly had no where to turn. A shipmate referred me to Steph and it was the best possible recommendation I have ever received. Reliable, expert, professional and overall just a great person. She never lost sight of my case and would check in on me to ensure I was doing good personally. I highly recommend her services to anyone who may have a legal issue. At minimum, request a consultation. I can assure that you will not be dissatisfied!
Vincent Hurtado
Vincent Hurtado
Highly recommend Steph! Thank you for all your hard work and fighting for righteousness. My family and I will be forever grateful!
Selena Hurtado
Selena Hurtado
Great team! After hiring this legal team i was pleased with their work and their ability to go above and beyond resulting in a finding of not guilty.
Tyson Smith
Tyson Smith
Very easy to talk to. Will get you the best outcome there is
I wish you could give more than 5 stars. She deserves 10!! This was a huge decision for our child, but she was worth every penny and more. As a mom I was really concerned about him spending the money on an attorney since you never know what you’re going to get. Our child mentioned this to Stephanie and she called me to answer all my questions. She went above and beyond what was required of her, not just with the phone call but with everything she did. The case went on for longer than we had ever imagined. She never wavered in her dedication. I was honestly shocked at just how hard she worked. If only I could express in words the heart felt gratitude, we feel towards her. She fought so hard and we knew we could trust decisions she made. When ever our child would update us, we would ask what Stephanie thought. We never could have imagined finding an attorney who we trust as much as we trust her. I don’t believe you will find an attorney who will fight as hard for you as she will. I consider her a part of our family and am so very blessed to have gotten to know her. She’s an amazing attorney and an even more amazing human being.
Shelly B.
Shelly B.
Stephanie was a great attorney as well as her team they helped me through my entire CID investigation and got me a no basis separation. Every question I had was answered in the upmost professional manner. I highly recommend that you retain her defense team for any case that you have. She’s attacks every case in a manner that leaves everyone with a reasonable doubt.
This was a life changing decision.I spent hours searching for and calling several attorneys. Some didn't give me the time of day, others just seemed cold. Mrs. Kral was the only attorney I called who actually seemed to care. And not only that but she listened me and gave an honest opinion. Usually you feel that attorneys only care about money but I never once felt that from Mrs. Kral. She took a personal interest in my case and brought not only her extensive knowledge of the law, but also her fierce attitude and relentless perseverance. She never missed a beat and always had a way forward. She also has excellent communication skills and took the time to explain everything to me at every step. I felt hopeless until we met. Now I can move on with my life and move forward with everything behind me because of how valiantly she fought. I truly think that if you decide to choose Kral Military Defense to fight for you then you'll never feel disappointed. If I could give more than 5 stars then I would. Because she's not like other attorneys. She will always have your back and keep your best interests at heart. If you take away anything from this review, let it be this: You want someone behind you that is willing to fight for you as if you were their own and also has the strength and knowledge to be successful. Don't pass up the opportunity to increase your chances and decrease your stress.
Evan Giancola
Evan Giancola
The team at Kral Military Defense is very approachable, knowledgeable, and dedicated. I was facing an LOR due to the results of an investigation conducted by the military. The team at Kral Military Defense reviewed the report of investigation and was able to craft an excellent rebuttal to the charges. Ultimately, the leadership decided to rescind the LOR . The whole team, Steph, Danielle, ,Abby, and Chris were very responsive to my questions and requests through the whole process. If you ever find yourself in any sort of legal situation in the military I highly recommend that you contact them and put them in your corner!
Stephanie was very knowledgeable and despite me being so anxious about my case helped me through it and got an innocent verdict within 6 minutes of the board being adjourned. So very grateful for her and my JAG for helping me out and highly recommend hiring Stephanie especially if you are military.
Andrew Compton
Andrew Compton
This law firm it worth every penny. Mrs. Danielle is an amazing women. She is kind and warm hearted and professional. She will make sure she understands you very well and will fights tooth and nail for you. Mrs. Abby is phenomenal. Mrs. Abby's Knowledge is deep and spot on. Mrs. Abby knows what to do and if she's not sure about UCMJ she'll make sure she does within your next call. Both these ladies are top-tier lawyer and paralegal. And I will always recommend these two to others for the duration of their long careers. Christian was a great guy and made sure all information was pushed up to them in a timely manner he's a hidden gem. They fight the good fight. Do not doubt them and work with them and they'll do their best and more.
Peter Petracca
Peter Petracca
Kral Military Defense has been absolutely amazing to me. Their whole team is very easy to work with and does such an amazing job. Kral defense was referred to me by JAGS I used to work with and I would absolutely 110% recommend and refer them to anyone in need of assistance. They have made my whole situation stress free and easy.
Kyle Lewis
Kyle Lewis
Steph and her team helped me to get a positive outcome during my NJP process. As soon I heard my case was going to captain mast, I googled military lawyer's and her name came up. With her experience as a former active duty Jag, her team truly understands the military system and what commands can and cannot do. With just a week to prepare for the NJP, her team got me templates that made the process easier. Her wording in her official letter to my command made it hard for the command to process several charges. This team is professional and know what they are doing. Hopefully I am never in this position again, but if so Kral Military Defense will be my first call.
James Johnson
James Johnson
The Kralmilitary defense firm saved my career and my family today! I have never experienced such a graceful, tactful, intelligent person in my life. She literally destroyed the prosecutor on everything and went tooth and nail to fight for my rights and career. I’m forever indebt to this firm. The Paralegal have lived the military life so they fully understand and know how to support. This firm should add 5 more stars because the service she gives 5 stars is not enough.
ron bobo
ron bobo
I am blessed to have Abby as my lawyer with Danielle as her paralegal during my ADSEP board. My retirement was on the line since I was just a few months away from it. The Kral team worked my case as true professionals. Since they all have a military background in the Air Force. Knowing military law in all branches is what they do best. Abby even worked with the military jag I requested to represent me as well. She now continues to do follow ups to make sure there’s no resistance from my command after we had won the board unanimously. If you feel like your command is out to get you without the facts, the Kral team will provide all the receipts to defend you.Joseph
Joe C
Joe C

About The Firm

Kral Military Defense defends members of America's military throughout the world. We do not maintain physical office space in the traditional sense. Instead, we offer secure video and telephone consultations and meet with current clients, as needed, at home and abroad.

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