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By Steven Tanner on November 12, 2013 2:33 PM

What if I said you could be demoted, stripped of your wages, and sentenced to five years in prison simply for walking off the job? That could never happen to a software engineer or a cashier, but there are serious consequences for members of the U.S. Armed Forces who fail to abide by military law. Desertion, or leaving your post without the intention of returning, can even get you executed if done during a time of war.

Maybe that seems harsh, but consider the critical importance of maintaining a cohesive military. If troops are unable to follow the chain of command and respond efficiently to a crisis, the consequences can be devastating. Failing to show up for your shift at the widget factory is one thing, but your absence on the front lines potentially hurts all Americans. is proud to launch its new Military Law section, with useful resources and in-depth articles to help military service members and their families. This section covers military criminal law; family, employment, and housing issues; and the various administrative rules and benefits affecting past and present service members.

Military Law Decoded

The addition of FindLaw's first new practice area in several years was prompted by the realization that military law, which is not widely understood, was a good fit for our audience. Anyone can read the roughly 800 chapters comprising the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), but actually understanding these provisions and how they pertain to real life is no cakewalk. That's where FindLaw comes in.

The new Military Law section (within the Learn About the Law portal) is organized in a user-friendly but authoritative manner, with plenty of room to grow. It was a fascinating, if challenging, undertaking for our fearless writing team.

Our blog team also has been busy discussing issues of importance to service members and veterans, including:

So just how different is military law from civilian law? As lawyers often say, it depends.

Addressing Service Members' Legal Needs

Instead of criminal trials, which are decided either by a jury or judge, service members who commit a military crime are subject to the court martial process. Also, courts martial and other types of military punishment typically are initiated by the commanding officer (a controversial practice, particularly in the context of sexual assault). But just like their civilian counterparts, service members enjoy the protections of the U.S. Constitution, may hire legal representation, and cannot be forced to incriminate themselves.

When it comes to civil law, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects service members from adverse actions such as eviction or default judgments while they are deployed for active duty. After all, we don't want our brave men and women in uniform to be preoccupied with such distractions while they serve their country.

Sometimes there is confusion over where civilian law ends and military law begins, such as what happens if you are charged with a DUI on a military base or whether you may hire a civilian attorney to represent you for a court martial. We'll help you answer these questions.

We're just getting started, and plan to add more Military Law content in the future. Have a suggestion? Feel free to contact us either through social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) or via email.

And last but certainly not least, FindLaw extends a warm thank you to all of the men and women who serve our country.

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