8 Need to Know Legal Military Facts

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8 legal Military fact that everyone who is facing military legal issues should know


1. The Military Justice system is controlled by commanders.When facing the Military Justice System you need independent, passionate, and experienced military attorney on your side to ensure your rights are protected.

2. A military lawyer may not have the experience or time to provide you with the best possible defense. Military counsel are dedicated professionals, but many may only have 1-2 years of experience as an attorney or in the military. The military attorneys at Military Trial Defenders are not only experienced litigators, they are experienced former active duty officers who understand how commanders evaluate cases and make decisions.

3. You have the right to remain silent. As a military member, if you are suspected of wrongdoing you have a constitutional right to remain silent and consult with an attorney. Never waive that right without speaking to an experienced attorney first. Even if you did nothing wrong, your words may be used against you.

4. The Military Justice system is unique and constantly evolving. In order to receive the best defense, you need counsel that is dedicated to understanding military litigation and know the latest changes and critical nuances of the military system.

5. Any allegation of sexual assault, regardless of the merit, will be investigated and is likely to result in a court-martial. Given the political and command climate of the military, any allegation involving sexual assault or misconduct is highly serious and requires a great deal of skill and care to resolve. Without at the early and continual assistance of the right defense counsel you will face court-martial, a Dishonorable Discharge and decades in a military prison.

6. You have the right to choose the counsel that will represent you in administrative and criminal proceedings. Military members have a absolute right to choose to be represented by experienced and independent counsel that answer only to you the client—not the of chain command.

7. Military Academy Cadets have the same rights and privileges as other military members. Whether you are a the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) or the Military Academy at Westpoint, the Naval Academy or a Coastie, from Colorado Springs to Annapolis—you have the right to hire a civilian defense counsel to represent you. Military attorneys like the experts at Military Trial Defenders have a record of successful outcomes in honor board cases and disenrollment hearings. Combined they have successfully represented dozens of cadets facing an early end to their military and academic careers.

8. Many states have adopted the Model Code of Military Justice. With the adoption of the model code in many states like, California, Texas and Pennsylvania, the members of the National Guard now face the possibility of being criminally prosecuted by their state. Military Trial Defenders team includes military lawyers with experience serving in and representing members of the National Guard.

military justice system

Recent Changes to Military Law and Their Impacts on Service Members

The military justice system evolves regularly through new legislation and amendments to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Staying current on these changes is crucial for service members facing legal issues. Here are key recent developments and how they affect your rights:

1. Expanded Eligibility for Special Victims’ Counsel

In 2021, the military passed reforms expanding eligibility for Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) services. SVCs are military lawyers who provide legal advice and representation to alleged victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other crimes.

Previously, SVC services were only available to active-duty members who reported qualifying crimes. Now, National Guard and Reserve members, as well as military dependents and retirees, can also request SVC representation if they are alleged victims of covered offenses.

This change enables a much broader group to have confidential legal guidance during the investigation and prosecution of crimes. An SVC’s role is to assist alleged victims understand the military legal process, provide referrals for other support services, and represent their rights and interests. Consequently, at trial, an alleged victim will have the prosecution team advocating on their behalf as well as services of the SVC.

2. Curtailing Convening Authority Powers

Convening authorities are commanders with jurisdiction to refer charges to court-martial and negotiate plea agreements. Historically, convening authorities also had the power to overturn court-martial convictions entirely or reduce sentences.

However, the Military Justice Act of 2016 removed this unfettered authority. Now, convening authorities can only make minor adjustments to sentences and require approval of a judge’s ruling before overturning convictions for serious offenses.

This reform limits commanders’ unilateral control over courts martial outcomes. With fewer post-trial options, securing the strongest defense possible before conviction is now even more important for service members. An experienced military lawyer is key to navigating the complex pre-trial process with the goal of never getting to trial and requesting clemency.

3. Charging Decisions Taken Away From Commanders

2024 marked the most significant change to the UCMJ since the 1950s. Prior to 2024, Commanders made the decision on whether to prefer charges against a military member. The deicson on whether to formally criminally charge a military member has now been delegated to the Office of Special Trial Counsel. Four Offices of Special Trial Counsel—within the Army, the Department of the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine Corps—have reached full operational capability. With this milestone, prosecutorial discretion for 13 serious criminal offenses will be shifted away from commanders to specially trained and independent judge advocates who reside within the Offices of Special Trial Counsel and report directly to the Secretaries of the Military Departments.

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Why You Should Not Speak to Investigators Without a Lawyer

You have the right to remain silent when questioned about alleged misconduct in the military. However, many service members make the mistake of waiving this right and speaking freely to investigators. They believe explaining their side will resolve the issue quickly.

In reality, statements to military investigators can easily be misconstrued and used against you. Even if you are completely innocent, your words may be twisted by the investigators and prosecution, or taken out of context. There are a few key reasons why you should always invoke your right to silence and consult with a lawyer first:

  • Investigators use interrogation techniques to elicit potentially self-incriminating information. They may pressure you to describe something inaccurately in the heat of the moment.
  • Making any definitive statements locks you into a version of events early on. If investigation details change, your credibility can be damaged.
  • Apologies, excuses, and contextual explanations are not viewed objectively. They can be portrayed as admissions of wrongdoing by prosecutors.
  • Statements you believe exonerate you may actually introduce doubts that hurt your case. Minor misremembered details can be used to undermine you.
  • Once a statement is made, it cannot be taken back. It can and will be used against you.
  • Your memory of an event may benefit from time and consultation with counsel before finalizing.
  • The questions investigators ask reveal their perspectives on the situation, which legal counsel can address.

In summary, immediately invoking your right to counsel and silence protects you and gives time to thoughtfully consider any statements. Speaking in the heat of the moment, no matter how well-intentioned, is fraught with risk in the military justice system. Protect yourself and consult with an expert military defense lawyer before talking to investigators. Learn more about Sentencing for Military Personnel Convicted of Sexual Assault in Washington State!


Staying informed of legal changes empowers you to protect your rights to the fullest extent. For personalized guidance on your situation, contact our team of military law experts today.



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