A Civilian Military Defense Attorney works for you! The military will provide you with a military defense attorney. However, such attorneys often urge the accused to plead guilty, without giving the evidence and the case, its due chance. Military Defense counsel still draw a pay check from the Government. Additionally your assigned military defense counsel is often overworked and has an incentive to push cases along as quickly as possible.
There is low social tolerance towards accusations of any crime in the all of the Military Services. For example, consider all of the sexual assault training you get on a yearly basis. As a person moving within a limited military society, you absolutely need someone in your corner, who has suspended pre-judgment and is asserting your case. A civilian attorney hired by you to specifically protect your interests, is crucial. Your civilian attorney is not hampered by a chain of command. He does not worry about whether or not he will make the next rank up or not. Military defense counsels are required to move to other jobs if they are to increase in rank. They don’t start their JAG Careers as military defense counsel, nor do they end their careers as military defense counsel. It is highly likely they will be Military Prosecutors after their service as Military Defense Counsel. Bottom line, military defense counsels are NOT interested in rocking the boat of their career path to achieve higher rank.
Secondly, aside from the risks to your life, quality of life, and career, crimes such as sexual assault are political issues, as much as it is a legal issue. It can permanently damage your reputation, and is fraught with emotional risks. The MTI Trainer scandal perpetrated through the media is a perfect example. In all of those cases, there is a senior Air Force JAG advising the media on their slant regarding this case. Most of those defendants are represented by military defense counsel who hope to achieve their next rank.
Thirdly, regarding sexual assault, alcohol is often involved; an expert should be provided to support your reconstruction of the events. Also, thru the help of a proper expert you can poke holes in the alleged victim’s reconstruction of events. The credibility of the alleged victims story could be seriously damaged depending upon how events are reconstructed. Alcohol presents a number of scenarios requiring thorough exploration.
Fourthly, sex assault cases always come down to credibility. Many times it is a he said she said case. The Government wants a panel of your peers to believe a potential alleged victim who typically has less than 4 years experience in the military…or no experience over you. Credibility can be attacked in many ways. For instance an experienced attorney needs to understand how to handle complicated DNA evidence. Many cases turn on the intricate nuances of DNA and how it affects things such as consent and identity of the perpetrator.
Finally, if you are stationed at an international base, the local government is also a party to your criminal prosecution. Issues of honor, of local identity, of local politics all play a part in such circumstances. You cannot be too cautious.
An Additional Note On Special Victim Prosecutors
The Army has even gone as far as to implement the Special Victims Prosecutor (SVP) program. This program came about after the Army had a difficult time explaining to Congress why there were so many incidents of alleged sexual assaults not effectively prosecuted. Congress wants more convictions!! And so the snowball rolls. The Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard demand more convictions! The Army’s solution was to create a regional prosecutorial program designed specifically to attack suspected perpetrators in order to secure more convictions. SVP’s are now stationed all over the world hunting for their next conviction. Typically these prosecutors are senior Majors or Lieutenant Colonels in the Army JAG Corps. Your military defense counsel is typically a junior, or mid-term Captain with at most, with 24 months of courtroom experience and typically less than 4 years total service to the Army. You will not get a Special Victim Defense attorney. The deck is stacked against you! Your solution is to hire a civilian military defense attorney to combat the Government’s SVP.