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Legal Information: Federal

Domestic Violence in the Military

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Laws current as of June 21, 2024

What are some possible punishments that a commander can bring against a Service member who commits abuse?

The Office of Special Trial Counsel (OSTC) has the exclusive power (authority) to determine if a domestic violence offense should be tried by a general or special court-martial.  If the OSTC determines that the allegation will not be tried by a general or special court-martial, the matter will be sent (deferred) to the abuser’s commander. The commander can  begin administrative discharge proceedings, including:

  • administrative discharge from Service;
  • nonjudicial punishment, which can include a reduction in rank and forfeiture of pay; or
  • other administrative action.

Alternatively, the commander can decide that none of these are appropriate and not take any action.

Note: If the abuser is not a Service member, the commander has fewer options for holding the abuser accountable because civilians are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The installation commander could bar the abuser from the installation. The commander may also encourage you to seek community legal services and remedies, such as a civil protection order (CPO), and to work with the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) to plan for your safety.  It is important to note that the FAP will not make any recommendations or carry out any disciplinary or legal actions against abusers.