As noted in our most recent blog, the armed forces continue to respond to numerous high-profile sexual assault cases that occurred in 2012. In that earlier post, it was noted that the Army had reviewed the backgrounds of members occupying “positions of trust” in regard to the reporting and handling of sex-related criminal charges, and that it had disqualified and removed almost 600 of these individuals from their roles.
Attempts at reforms continue as the military sustain its efforts to greatly reduce the number of sex crimes occurring in the military. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have agreed to the wording of a proposed National Defense Authorization Act that make legal and procedural changes affecting the handling of sex crimes (and in some cases, other types of crimes). Changes include:
- Eliminate the five-year statute of limitations (time limit) on sexual assault and sexual assault of a child charges
- Provide the presence a Sexual Assault Victim Advocate or similar advocate for the alleged victim of sexual assault whenever the alleged victim is to be interviewed by the defense
- Establish minimum sentences for rape, sexual assault and other sex-related charges
- Create policies to govern whether a case involving alleged sexual assault will or will not be referred for trial by court-martial
- Remove commanders’ legal authority to consider an accused’s “military service and character” when he or she makes a decision on initial disposition of sex crime charges
- Alter rules addressing special counsel for victims
- Prohibit convening authorities from disapproving findings of “guilty” (except when the offense was minor in nature)
Clearly, the passage of these and other changes greatly alter the way sex crimes are tried in the military and, overall, create a more challenging legal environment for the accused in many instances: commanders will possess significantly less discretion when reviewing cases, guilty verdicts will be less subject to questioning and alteration, and cases involving evidence that is more than five years old will be allowed to move forward. It is therefore increasingly important that, when you face military sex crime charges, you obtain qualified legal help. Attorney Ryan Coward has litigated some of the military’s most publicized cases and can provide knowledgeable and effective legal counsel. Call 303-567-7981.