The military provides top-notch litigation training for prosecutors and defense counsel. This is reflected in the best district attorney and public defender offices nationwide. However, the chain of command can impact a JAG attorney’s ability to defend their client.
When it comes to sexual assault, rape, and other serious sex offenses, a conviction under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice can result in a dishonorable discharge, a prison sentence that can range from seven years to life, mandatory sex offender registration and loss of health care benefits, pay and a military pension. The right military criminal defense lawyer can help defend against false sex crime accusations by careful cross-examination of the alleged victim to highlight inconsistencies, expose lies, and demonstrate that their testimony is unreliable.
With the current emphasis on rape and sexual assault allegations, it is harder than ever for defendants to have a fair trial. This is why it is crucial to hire military sexual assault lawyers who have experience defending these cases. They can anticipate the prosecution’s focus and glean favorable evidence from those sources. They also know how to get access to expert witnesses to build the strongest possible case.
Representation in Court-Martial
If you’re facing a court-martial, you must hire a military sexual assault lawyer who is experienced and knowledgeable about the law of rape and sexual assault in the military. The current climate has led to the DoD conducting mandatory briefings in which misinformation about the law of rape and sexual misconduct is being shared with all those involved in a case, from investigators to command, JAG, convening officers, prosecutors, and potential court-martial members (jurors).
When an accusation is made against you, your attorney should fight to ensure you get a jury trial and that the pool of prospective jurors is properly screened during the process known as voir dire. A jury trial allows your attorney to question witnesses, cross-examine them, and introduce evidence on your behalf.
Access to the Military Justice System
Many of the same allegations that are charged in civilian courts, such as rape and sexual assault, have been made against members of our military. Those accusations can threaten your life, liberty, service to the country, future civilian job opportunities, and financial stability.
Congress and the President passed legislation creating the Office of Special Trial Counsel, which shifts prosecutorial discretion over sexual assault cases away from commanders to specially trained military lawyers. This has already resulted in several service members having charges dropped.
Each accused member of a court-martial has the right to a free-appointed attorney, which the Department of Defense provides. In addition, service members can choose a jury of eight officers or, at the accused’s election, a judge panel of at least one-third of enlisted members. Jury selection in the civilian system involves weeding out potential jurors to avoid bias and prejudice.
In recent years, military commanders have become increasingly aggressive in pursuing sexual assault allegations – often due to public pressure. Even when Article 32 hearing Preliminary Hearing Officers recommend against proceeding to trial, commanders often ignore these recommendations and force cases to trial.
The alleged victim’s credibility is the most important factor in any sexual assault case. The UCMJ includes a penalty for providing a false official statement in sexual assault cases. Often, the motive to fabricate a story is financial – a service member may be able to make more money by sticking with her original false claim than by recanting it. Service members accused of sexual misconduct face serious penalties if convicted. These include years of prison, mandatory sex offender registration, and loss of pay and benefits. Even if the accusations are unfounded, they can ruin an active duty service member’s life and future. Civilian military lawyers have experience defending clients in these matters.