When a military service member decides to end their military career, they can either separate from the military altogether or, more commonly, retire. For as long as a retired service member is collecting retirement pay and benefits from the military, though, they can be held under court-martial jurisdiction. Furthermore, they can be recalled back to active duty without volunteering.

The lingering control over retired military service members can and has created complications for some. In the recently concluded case of U.S. v. Larrabee, the Fleet Marine Reserve member was held to the standards of court-martial after being accused of sexual assault, a charge to which he pled guilty. Since the alleged act occurred in Japan, a Japanese criminal court would have handled the case instead of court-martial had Larrabee not been technically still connected to the U.S. Armed Forces through his Reserves status.

Some have speculated that Larrabee’s case would have fared better in a Japanese criminal court instead of court-martial. Yet Major General Charles Dunlap, USAF (Ret.) recently commented that Larrabee’s case was handled as well as it could have been given his guilty plea. Justice Kagan also stated that Larrabee and any others in similar situations are provided procedural protections effectively identical to those given in state and federal criminal courts.

Larrabee was also not eligible yet to transfer to the retired list of service members as he had not completed 30 or more years of active duty service. Given that he could have chosen to separate instead of continuing to collect retainer pay, it would have been all the more difficult for Larrabee to successfully argue his case should have been taken outside of court-martial.


What you can take away from the Larrabee case and Major General (Ret.) Dunlap’s commentary on it is that you are definitively not out of the military once you retire as long as you are collecting military benefits. For many, always feeling a connection to the United States Armed Forces is a significant point of pride. But, as it became for Larrabee, the ties that bound him to the military also tripped him up and placed him unexpectedly under the jurisdiction of court-martial, for better or for worse.

Do you need representation for a military court-martial, either as an active duty member of the military or a member listed as retired? You will want the trusted representation of Military Criminal Defense Attorney Joseph Jordan. As a former prosecutor who has seen the other side of the courtroom in military criminal defense cases and court-martial alike, Attorney Jordan has represented hundreds of clients and taken more than 130 cases to a verdict, giving him a track record that surpasses most others. Best of all, you can call on his law firm no matter where you are stationed and no matter what branch of the Armed Forces you are in.

Call (866) 624-7503 for a free consultation to begin.