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Focus: military law applied to new technologies

Some military members are arguing that certain alleged criminal activity they are being charged with is not supported by evidence and that charges should be either reconsidered or dismissed.

Military law, they say, is either too vague or does not specifically address the conduct that has brought them before military tribunals.

Reportedly, they are losing a lot of those arguments.

The special focus of a recent media report is on activities like sexting and so-called “text stalking,” which are supported in court by digital evidence derived from smartphones, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and other sources that are centrally marked by evolving technologies.

One commentator on the matter -- an attorney and former Army judge advocate general -- says that arguments by accused servicemembers stressing that not enough legal precedent has been established to charge or convict them of many such charges are weak at best.

Military courts “have made it clear that texting or sexting can be criminalized,” he says, adding that computer and phone images and messages can be considered “digital lipstick” that serves the same purpose as evidence such as phone records, credit card trails and hotel slips.

In one recent case, an Airman 1st class was convicted of sexting a nude image to a minor, arguing unsuccessfully that military law did not specifically address that conduct. In another case, a former Army member was convicted of stalking based in part on what a military appeals court termed “a pattern of repeated telephone calls and text messages.”

Civilians and military members use evolving technologies in similar fashion, with both groups being equally susceptible to charges of criminal conduct that features digital evidence from phones and computers.

The outcome for a military member in such a case can be harsh and uncompromising. The prompt and aggressive intervention of an experienced military defense attorney can help ensure that a military client’s case yields the best possible results.

Source: Air Force Times, "Military appeals courts uphold sexting convictions," Kristin Davis, April 14, 2014

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