Sexual Assault Charges and Military Justice

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Sexual assault in the military destroys trust and damages morale. The military command works hard to maintain a safe and cohesive culture by cracking down on sexual assault accusations. If you’re facing legal issues, the team at Military Trial Defenders is ready to help. It’s understood that commanding officers in the military are expected to enforce good order and discipline. They are given the tools to do so via the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Article 120 of the UCMJ describes persons accused of sexual assault as those who:

  1. Committed a sexual act upon another person through either threat or fear (components of aggravated sexual assault) or have used fraudulence, manipulation, or force to obtain sex.
  2. Have committed a sexual act upon someone who is unconscious or unaware of the act.
  3. Have committed a sexual action someone who is incapable of consenting to the act due to intoxication, drug-induced impairment, or a physical or mental disability.

Sexual Assault in the Military — The Numbers

In 2014, 6,131 military members reported sexual assault. Comparatively, only 317 military members actually were court-martialed on sexual assault charges and given a sentence of confinement. That is about a 1-in-20 rate. But why is the incarceration rate so low? Or, to put it differently, why are so few people charged with sexual assault compared to the number of sexual assault cases that are reported? While some may suggest this small ratio is indicative of a justice or punishment issue, most military defenders will argue otherwise. This low incarceration rate actually demonstrates the proper working of the justice system to prevent the innocent from being charged with fabricated or exaggerated crimes.

Preventing Fabrication or Exaggeration

As the Military Times explains, the 6,131 reported sexual assaults in 2014 were whittled down rather quickly when investigations started to come into play. Of the 6,131 reports, 1,471 were “restricted reports” in which the victim never identified an attacker. Of the 4,660 “unrestricted reports that remained, nearly 550 were dismissed by the Defense Department as unfounded or baseless. Roughly 250 were dismissed because investigators were unable to identify the perpetrator.

Ultimately, commanders received 2,625 cases to consider for a court-martial or other legal action, but several of these cases were dismissed due to insufficient evidence. Several were downgraded to non-sexual assault-related offenses, while 1,150 sexual assault charges were substantiated. Still, commanders did not opt for court-martial in all these cases – nonjudicial punishment or administrative punishments were also employed. At the end of the year, 317 was the number of court-martialed sexual assault offenders.

Had the initial reports and accusations been taken at face value, there would be many military members who were falsely or unjustly accused of sexual assault. Luckily, the military justice system has an efficient filter system and dedicated lawyers who work to prevent fabrications and exaggeration.

Military Law in the US

If you are facing sexual assault accusations, that does not necessarily mean that you are headed to court-martial. And if you have already been court-martialed, that does not necessarily mean that you are headed to confinement. With the help of experienced military lawyers, you can navigate the complexities of UCMJ Article 120. At Military Trial Defenders, we are committed to defending those who defend our country. Don’t hesitate to contact us today.

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