Sea Change for Military Justice

Signed into law by President Obama in December 2016, the Military Justice Act of 2016 took effect on January 1, 2019. It provides the most sweeping changes to the military justice system since the implementation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 1951. Some of the notable changes implemented by the Act include the:

1) Creation of a new special court-martial colloquially known as the “short-martial.” This new court-martial removes the accused’s option to elect a member panel (military version of a jury); instead mandating the judge alone option for both findings and sentencing. While the traditional special court-martial remains eligible to award up to a year of confinement and a bad conduct discharge, this new “short-martial” can only award confinement of up to six months and cannot adjudge a punitive discharge.

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Applying for a Military Discharge Upgrade

Background

A majority of people serving in the military leave active duty service with an Honorable characterization of service discharge. For those that do not receive an Honorable discharge, Title 10 U.S.C Section 1553 authorizes the Secretary of the service concerned to "establish a board of review, consisting of five members, to review the discharge or dismissal (other than a discharge or dismissal by sentence of a general court-martial) of any former member of an armed force under the jurisdiction of his department upon its own motion or upon the request of the former member or, if he is dead, his surviving spouse, next of kin, or legal representative." The Discharge Review Board can upgrade general discharges, other than honorable (undesirable) discharges, and special court-martial bad conduct discharges, as well as change the reason for discharge or reenlistment code (in some circumstances).

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Help! Why does my background check show an arrest during my military service if I was never convicted of anything?

When applying for jobs, licenses, loans, concealed weapons permits, or anything else that requires a background check, many former military members discover that an accusation, investigation, or arrest from their time in the military is still reflected in their background investigation despite the fact they never received a conviction or even went to a trial. The realization that an unsubstantiated allegation or minor misconduct (resulting in nothing more than an NJP/Article 15) remains on a criminal database can leave military members feeling frustrated and confused. Read more below about why your background check might reveal inaccurate information and how Matthew T. Smith Law can assist you with correcting the background investigation database to more accurately reflect the final outcome of your case.

Criminal Justice Information Services and "Titling"

The Criminal Justice Information Service (CJIS) manages the criminal history record information for the Federal Government. It does this by operating a Next Generation Identification (NGI) database. The FBI NGI database is a national computerized system which stores, compares, and exchanges fingerprint data and criminal history information. Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies submit fingerprint cards and criminal history information to feed this NGI database.

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Misdemeanor or Felony – High Times Could Have You Up In Smoke

Florida Tampa St. Pete THC cannabis weed misdemeanor felony attorney criminal defense

In Florida, marijuana vaping could lead to felony charges.

A mix of factors–such as legalization of recreational marijuana in other states, large scale cannabis production, and the rise of vape pen use–has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of people possessing and using THC concentrates. In addition to the THC oils used to smoke in vape pens, many users are also leaving behind the traditional leafy, bud form of marijuana in favor of more concentrated, exotic cannabis options for dabbing like rosin, sap, wax, shatter, “pull and snap,” crumble or budder. When choosing these more concentrated versions of cannabis over marijuana in its normal plant-form, many users in Florida fail to consider their exposure to significantly harsher punishments if caught by the police.Continue reading

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My Security Clearance Was Just Suspended. What Happens Next?

Clients are often confused about the security clearance suspension and revocation process; as well as the due process rights they are afforded. The following article discusses the basics of what you can expect should you be served with a letter of intent to revoke your clearance. This discussion is primarily focussed on the Department of Defense process, but the process is substantially similar for other Departments such as the Defense Intelligence Agency, CIA, or NSA.

Controlling Regulations

The controlling regulations for assigning responsibilities and establishing procedures for security clearance actions are DOD MANUAL 5200.02 “Procedures for the DOD Personnel Security Program (PSP) and DoD Directive 5220.6 “Defense Industrial Personnel Security Clearance Review Program.”

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Trifecta: Three things to know about horse racing law before opening day

This Saturday, November 25th, marks opening day for horse racing at the Tampa Bay Downs @TampaBayDowns #TampaBayDowns. Given that this year’s Florida-Florida State game doesn’t really mean much more than bragging rights for whose team sucks just a little less than the other, dawning some derby attire, having some drinks, and having some fun at the races is a great alternative. If you decide to make it to the Tampa Bay Downs, here’s a trifecta of some laws and rules operating behind the scenes that you might not be aware of:

There is no Florida Racing Commission

Unlike many states, Florida does not have a Racing Commission. Instead, the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering handles the duties and responsibilities typically carried out by a racing commission. In addition to horse racing and harness racing, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering also oversees greyhound racing, jai-alai, card rooms, and slot machines in Florida.

 

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The Storm Has Passed – Now What?

Tips to take when filing insurance claims after Hurricane Irma

Earlier this week, Hurricane Irma rolled through Florida. While overall the damage was less than expected, for hundreds of thousands of Florida residents, the damage to their property will require filing a claim with their insurance companies. Here are some tips to make the filing process as simple as possible:

Contact your insurer as soon as possible. Insurance companies often respond to claims on a first-come, first-served basis. In preparation for this storm, Floridians left their homes for safer locations up north in unprecedented numbers. When those Floridians return to their homes to discover the damage, insurance companies will be flooded with calls. Be sure you are on the front end of those calls.

Document damage with photo and video. Do a complete and comprehensive walk around your home and your personal property to document any damage. Include a walk around and review of your automobiles, boats, and any other valuable property which may have been damaged. Don’t forget to photograph spoiled goods in your refrigerator as many policies will reimburse you for food which spoiled after you lost power.

Keep all of your receipts. Keep all of the receipts for any of your Hurricane Irma related expenses. This includes receipts for lodging and meals if you were forced to evacuate, as well as receipts for immediate repairs you need to make in order to secure your home upon return. For instance, if you need to purchase a tarp or board up a broken window in order to prevent further damage to your home, that is likely a reimbursable expense. When in doubt, keep the receipt so you can turn it over to the insurance company later on in the claim process.

File a claim even if you don’t have flood insurance. If you don’t have flood insurance, but you received damage which you think is attributable to flooding, file a claim anyway. Sometimes damage can be attributed to other factors and your loss could be covered under the wind and water damage portion of your policy.

Get the claims adjuster’s information. When the claims adjuster arrives at your door be sure to get a card. If they are an adjuster employed by your insurance company, also request the contact information of the adjuster’s supervisor. If the adjuster is a contractor for the insurance company, request the contact information for the insurance agent representative to whom they will provide the estimate information. Before the adjuster leaves, ensure you get a copy of the estimate and that it includes your claim number. If you feel that the estimate is too low, or does not address all your damage, contact the higher-ups. Insurance companies rely on people accepting the first estimate. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Be wary of contractors cold calling or coming door to door. In the coming weeks, you will see that disaster response can bring out the best in people, but unfortunately, also the worst. There will be con artists, posing as building contractors, roofers, window installers, insurance adjusters etc. out there trying to take advantage of your vulnerability during this troubling time. If someone contacts you without you engaging them first, be vigilant with your information and money. Ask for a business card and check the name against databases like the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org), The Florida Department of State Division of Corporations (http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/search/), or even Yelp.

Matthew Smith is a licensed attorney in Tampa, Florida. If you feel your insurance company is either partially or fully denying your valid claims, contact Matthew T. Smith Law at (813) 591-5913 or consultation@mtsmithlaw.com for a free consultation about the steps available to you.

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