“I’ve been charged with sexual assault. What now?” At Military Trial Defenders, this is one of the most frequent questions we receive. Sexual assault charges are serious, and they can be especially detrimental in a military setting. Many sexual assault accusations come as a shock to the accused, but it is important that they understand sexual assault is considered a major crime under the UCMJ – not a misdemeanor. It is absolutely essential that the accused work with an experienced military law attorney if they want to salvage their innocence, reputation, and career. Here are a few general tips for military members who are facing sexual assault charges.
Remember Your Rights
Given the current political pressures that the United States Military faces, sexual assault accusations entail full investigations and Article 32 preliminary hearings. During the investigation stage, it is important that military members remember their rights. You have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The absolute best thing that they accused can do is to exercise these rights. It is highly unlikely that a statement will benefit you if it is made before speaking with a military law attorney. Even a genuinely good defense can be used against you if your words aren’t crafted carefully. Remember your rights, and evoke them!
Fight False Allegations
If you are facing sexual assault charges that are based on false allegations, it can be an incredibly disheartening experience. Here are a few suggestions for how to move forward in such a scenario:
- Contact a qualified and experienced civilian military attorney as soon as possible.
- Document the details of your case by writing down as many details as possible.
- Get educated about your rights, the UCMJ, and sexual assault charges. The internet is an easy place to start, but an attorney will know exactly how each law applies.
- Compile a list of potential witnesses.
- Compile a list of potential character references.
- Don’t make the mistake of thinking that false allegations aren’t serious. Even if they are false, the military tends to operate more on a “guilty until proven innocent” basis rather than vice versa.
Don’t Be Surprised by Court-Martial
In general, a sexual assault charge tends to lead to court-martial, so it is important to stay level-headed if this occurs. Begin preparing your defense early to ensure that you don’t miss anything, and be ready to face a JAG prosecutor who is equipped to secure convictions. Thus, while the military does provide the accused with free counsel, it is probably best to double up on counsel by working with a civilian military attorney and your free JAG attorney.
Ask Good Questions
The best defense begins with questions – and a lot of them. The prosecutor will be doing a thorough investigation, so it only makes sense that the defense should be, too. Here are a few questions you that you should be asking and compiling answers such as:
- Is the victim lying about what happened?
- Could the victim have intentionally or mistakenly identified the wrong offender?
- Do you, as the defendant, have an alibi?
- Could DNA evidence point in your direction?
Fight Sexual Assault Charges with a Trustworthy Military Law Attorney
“I’ve been charged with sexual assault. What now?” If you are asking this question, the very first step is finding a military law attorney that you can trust. Your attorney should treat sexual assault charges as seriously as you do and should provide you with the strategy and support you need to move forward with confidence and assurance. Your attorney should also have experience with sexual assault charge cases as they can be incredibly complex. If you have questions about how the lawyers at Military Trial Defenders can support you, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.