Interviewer: When someone active military gets into trouble or they’re accused of one or more crimes, what are the avenues available to them? Is there such a thing as a public defender? What can they do to get representation?
Chris: When charges are preferred against a military member or, in some cases, when they’re initially under investigation, they will be assigned local military counsel. Which in the civilian world would be the public defender’s office.
Initially, Local Military Counsel Will Represent the Defendant
Interviewer: Will the local military counsel represent them all the way through their court-martial or do they need to obtain defense from an outside counsel or different counsel?
Military Personnel Do Have the Right to Legal Counsel of Their Choice
Chris: There’s some counsel that can represent them throughout the entirety of their proceedings. However, one of the rights every military member has is the right to counsel. They can request or they can hire somebody that is a licensed attorney to defend them in their court-martial.
Interviewer: Which I imagine would be an attorney such as your self. Are you considered a private attorney that’s being hired or are you considered a member of the military who’s being hired to defend them?
An Outside Defense Counsel Can Be Selected for Representation and They Are Considered Private Attorneys, Unconnected with the Military
Chris: I’m considered a private attorney, hired to defend them.
Interviewer: You essentially have no attachment to the military when you’re defending them?
Military Personnel Can Select Private Legal Representation for Any Type of Criminal Charge
Interviewer: I assume you would not be contacted to defend military personnel during low-level cases such as petty theft or DUI. What kind of cases do you primarily deal with?
Chris: Actually, interestingly enough, my cases run the gamut. Military personnel have the right to select outside counsel regardless of whether he or she is charged with a DUI or possession of child pornography or article 1, which is an article, which describes every manner of sexual assault that is covered by the UCMJ.
Military Personnel Require Outside Counsel for a Variety of Reasons
Whatever the charge is, what really is at risk is their career. Even one mistake, one conviction can have lasting damage to their careers. It doesn’t matter if the charge is a DUI or a use of a narcotic such as ecstasy or marijuana. For those individuals who value their career and see it as a long-term investment in something that they believe in, a criminal conviction can irreparably damage that investment they are making in their future.
Some Convictions Carry Serious Penal Consequences for Military Personnel
On the other hand, there are also people who are just simply charged with a very serious offense and perhaps their assigned defense counsel hasn’t had experience handling a murder case or a sex assault case or a child pornography possession case, or a DUI or AWOL. These are charges that carry serious penal consequences.
You’ll see the gamut. You’ll see people charged with serious offenses who are concerned about the outcome off their liberty.
You also see individuals who don’t care what crime they’re charged with. To them, a criminal charge is a moral offense and resolving the case is a matter of integrity and honor and they require someone to defend them.