Defending Against Charges of Sexual Misconduct Under Article 120
There is no other area of military law that has undergone as many changes recently as Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which concerns sexual misconduct. As the military works toward implementing recent changes to the law, commanders face increased pressure from the media, politicians, and the public to more strictly and swiftly punish offenders. This current atmosphere means service members accused of sexual misconduct must be prepared to aggressively defend their rights to have any hope of clearing their name.
Early Intervention is Best Defense for Sexual Misconduct Cases
If you are facing allegations of sexual misconduct, it is important that you receive advice from a competent military lawyer at the earliest possible juncture. Hiring a civilian military defense attorney that is an expert in this area means your defense will not be solely in the hands of an inexperienced JAG (Judge Advocate General) that is unfamiliar with sexual misconduct cases. Early intervention by an experienced and aggressive military defense attorney can significantly alter the course and the outcome of your case.
An Experienced Court Martial Law Attorney Will Help Tell Your Side of the Story
Commanding officers have a duty to investigate and pursue even mildly credible allegations. Hiring an attorney while the commanding officer is still investigating the situation is important because oftentimes the available evidence is clouded by alcohol use or memory lapses. An experienced military lawyer can help you gather evidence from witnesses, calendars, phones, and social media that can help tell your side of the story. Our firm also offers clients access to a range of experts in the field of sexual assault. Resolving a case at this early stage can reduce the negative consequences that begin to pile up as soon as an accusation is made.
If a commanding officer determines that the accusations are credible, he or she will typically begin an Article 32 investigation and recommend prosecution by court-martial. Unfortunately, external pressure to crack down on sexual offenses and the recent changes to Article 120 mean prosecution is becoming more common. In some cases this has resulted in prosecution for situations that would never be prosecutable in the civilian world, as Article 120 now covers a broader spectrum of factual circumstances, including everything from indecent exposure to aggravated sexual assault.
What if your commander decides to prosecute?
Having an experienced civilian military attorney on your team can significantly bolster your court-martial defense. It is critical to have someone one your side who you can trust to attack the government’s case against you. A skilled attorney will also know how to evaluate evidence and witnesses against you, be able to assist you in gathering evidence and witnesses to support your arguments and be an expert advocate during the trial itself by aggressively cross examining witnesses against you and helping get the truth of what really occurred.
Putting up a strong defense is critical, because convictions, though appealable, are devastating. Convicted members can be punished with jail time, a dishonorable discharge and loss of military benefits. Depending on the crime, conviction can also result in your being required to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life, which can limit your future job opportunities and housing options.
The earlier you can hire an attorney the better, but it is never too late to give up hope. Whether you are just now facing accusations, have been charged, or want to appeal a conviction, the military law attorneys at our firm are here to help. Their years of experience will ensure you are able to put up an aggressive defense.