Where Strong Advocacy Matters
When facing a military trial, it is critical that you are represented by an experienced and dedicated court-martial lawyer and military attorney. Your life and good name depend on it.
The most serious criminal allegations are handled by military criminal courts–Courts-Martial. Like any other criminal trial court, a judge presides while teams of prosecutors face court-martial attorneys in a battle of proving, and disproving, guilt. When chosen, a jury may decide both guilt and punishment. A court-martial can destroy future employment opportunities, your family, and your good name. For most individuals, a court-martial is the most important event of their relatively short lives, and having a qualified and experienced military lawyer is crucial to effectively navigate this process.
Make no mistake. This is serious business. Courts-martial can send someone to jail, take all rank and money, and give a Bad-Conduct Discharge or Dishonorable Discharge. For all types of military trials, it is imperative that you obtain the services of a quality and experienced court-martial lawyer to fight the charges against you. You want a military lawyer who is experienced, well-spoken, understands the process, and willing to spend time getting to know you and your circumstances.
Courts-martial come in three different types, and each has distinct advantages and disadvantages.
This is somewhere between nonjudicial punishment and higher-level courts-martial. You face being reduced in rank, up to 30 days in jail (lower enlisted members), forfeiture of pay, and restriction/extra duty. While less severe when compared to the other types of court-martial, it can still take away your freedom, destroy your career, and provide framework for an administrative separation.
The scariest part of the Summary Court-Martial process is that you generally do not have a court-martial attorney in the room with you. Therefore, you need someone to educate you on the process and give you the tools necessary to walk into the room prepared to fight for yourself. For Summary Courts-Martial, I spend time giving you the paperwork and knowledge necessary to fully fight the charges against you. I take as much time as is necessary to do this, and I remain available for consultation while you are in court. With me, you will never be alone at a Summary Court-Martial, because you have more options when you hire civilian counsel.
When you hire civilian counsel, you also have the option of having the civilian court-martial lawyer present in the room during the hearing. Military trial defense court-martial attorneys usually avoid these proceedings because of the rules for court-martial and their high caseloads as public defenders. Why go this alone when you have the power to have someone familiar with Summary Courts-Martial next to you? Never underestimate the assistance that can be provided by a court-martial lawyer.
Special Court-Martial (Sometimes called BCD-Special)
These are the Army’s equivalent to civilian misdemeanor court, and they can reduce servicemembers to the grade of E-1, take all pay, jail for up to 12 months, and issue a Bad-Conduct Discharge. While this is a lesser court than a General Court-Martial, it is still dangerous. You may lose a year of your life, get a criminal record, and suffer the impact of a Bad-Conduct Discharge for the rest of your life. Never go down this path alone.
I stand at your side for every significant step in this process. As part of your defense team, I evaluate the evidence, your history, and the court in order to provide you with the best solution possible.
This is the big one, and it has the potential of taking away your freedom forever. The equivalent of a civilian felony court, it is limited only by the maximum punishment of the charges against you, and that means the additional possibility of a Dishonorable Discharge. The possible outcomes are harsh, and the process is exceedingly complex. This is why competent, dedicated military counsel is of the utmost importance.
Because of the dire consequences of this process, you must assemble a team to fight for your rights and those things that are important to you. Going this path alone is virtual suicide, and you must find someone who is experienced and skilled as a trial attorney. The work begins before charges are brought, through an Article 32 hearing, and then to trial with a Judge or Panel (Jury). Going forward alone or with inexperienced counsel is not fair to you or those who care about you.
For sexual assault cases arising under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, almost all allegations go to a general court-martial where harsh and life-altering punishments may be imposed.
A qualifying conviction at court-martial could result in mandatory sex offender registration. Individual states maintain policies that govern these registries. This stigma affects almost all convictions under Article 120, UCMJ as well as a host of other offenses. Be sure to ask your military lawyer whether you will be required to have your picture and information on one of these online registries.
If you are found guilty at court-martial, your information will be published at the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). This is a database that contains records of arrest and conviction. It is used by law enforcement agencies and some private organizations when background checks are mandated. Information stored in this database can effect future employment and other opportunities.