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Proof lies on him who asserts, not on him who denies. The concept is that one is innocent until proven guilty. Regardless of what the law says about reasonable doubt, there is an unwritten presumption within the ranks of the military that if you are charged with sexual assault, then you are guilty. The stakes are your life! Your military counsel works for the same military that charged you. Consider that as you choose who represents you in your potentially life altering case.


Article 120 Rape


Article 120, rape and sexual assault have been defined to include the different natures of unlawful, forced activities upon another person. More specifically, persons are said to have committed rape if they have committed a sexual act upon another person by (a) the exertion of unlawful force (b) exertion of force that has caused or would be likely to cause the death of or serious harm to another person (c) placing or threatening to place the person in fear of being kidnapped, subject to death, or subject to grave bodily harm (d) rendering the person unconscious, or (e) administering without the knowledge of the person, or through force or threat, any substance that can substantially render the person incapable of assessing or controlling conduct. When such act or acts are proven, the guilty will be punished in accordance with the decision of a court-martial.

These accusations could have happened while you were on-duty or off and between two military personnel or between an enlisted individual and a civilian. Charges of rape are taken very seriously and you may risk losing your career and ranking and be dishonorably discharged if you are found guilty. You may also be forced to register yourself as a convicted sex offender for the rest of your life on a national public registry.

Persons accused of sexual assault are those who:

  • Have committed a sexual act upon another person by:
    • The threatening the person or using the weapon of fear
    • Causing the person any form of bodily harm
    • Fraudulently representing the sexual act as necessary to serving a professional purpose
    • Creating a false belief that the accused is another person;
  • Have committed a sexual act upon another person who is unconscious, asleep or unaware of the occurrence of the act
  • Have committed the sexual act upon another person in a situation where the person is incapable of consenting to the act, as a result of:
    • Intoxication or impairment by a drug or other substance
    • A physical or mental disability, of which the accused has full or reasonable knowledge.

Aggravated sexual contact and abusive sexual contact also fall under Article 120. These crimes are a lesser crime than rape, but still hold immense penalties if you are found guilty. The former is an offense by a person who has committed sexual contact upon another person, and does not satisfy the conditions of rape (subsection a). The latter is an offense by a person who has committed sexual contact upon another person, and does not satisfy the conditions of sexual assault (subsection b).

​​​​​Numerous aggravated sexual assault reports have surfaced over the last few years and the amount of evidence has demanded a reform and harsher penalties for individuals convicted of aggravated sexual assault. These incidents are not just isolated to one particular area of the military; all branches and people of all ranks could be charged with this offense.

Aggravated sexual assault is not just limited to adults over the age of 18 either - you could be charged with sexual assault of a child or aggravated sexual contact as well. If you are convicted of these charges, you could face up to 30 years in confinement with forfeiture of all allowances and military pay and be dishonorably discharged from your rank and branch of the military.

When a person being prosecuted under this section has been charged with proof of threat, it is not necessary to prove that the person actually had the intention to carry out the act or possessed the ability to commit the same. Also, marriage cannot be cited as a defense under this section.


This year, the House of Representatives passed a measure to enforce a mandatory minimum sentence of two years imprisonment, and dismissal or dishonorable discharge for servicemen convicted of sexual assault or rape under the UCMJ. In the event that the measure becomes part of a larger bill, accused servicemen will face a tougher court-martial.

In any case, strict punishment is reserved for offenses under Article 120 rape and sexual assault. For each section, depending on the nature of crime and the outcome of the court-martial, a death sentence is the harshest punishment that can be delivered, followed by lifelong incarceration, and imprisonment for a certain number of years (depending on the ruling). The counsel of a reliable military lawyer can be extremely helpful in softening the ruling or even getting a clean chit, based on the nature and specifics of the case.


Under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UJMJ), there are serious penalties for sexual assault and related misconduct. Convicted service members will be dismissed or dishonorably discharged.

There are many types and degrees of Article 120 offenses, and the penalties differ for each. In the most severe circumstances, the penalty is death. Other severe penalties include life in prison and lengthy incarceration. Listed below are some specific Article 120 charges and their corresponding penalties

  • Rape:​​​​​​The maximum penalty for rape is death. Or the accused can be awarded with life imprisonment. Other possible punishments are dishonorable discharge and bad conduct discharge. Individuals accused of rape also face the forfeiture of their total pay and allowance.

The repercussion of dishonorable and bad conduct discharge: Basically, a military discharge releases you from your obligation to continue serving the armed forces. Dishonorable discharge is awarded for acts the military deems reprehensible. Individuals who have been dishonorably discharged do not receive any, and often struggle to find employment in the civilian sector. The US federal law also forfeits their right to own firearms. Bad conduct discharge is awarded to enlisted military members as punishment for misconduct. It is often always accompanied by jail time in military prison. Individuals who have been discharged due to bad conduct must forfeit all their veteran's benefits.

As you can see, rape is not let off lightly in the armed services, and the guilty will have to bear strict punishment for his/her actions. So far, under the UCMJ, only one serviceman has been executed for rape – in 1961, Private John Arthur Bennett was hanged for raping and attempting to kill a 11-year old girl in Austria. A death sentence was also awarded to Earnest L. Ransom in 1957 – he had been convicted of the rape and premeditated murder of a 14-year old Korean girl.

Note: A revision undertaken in 2007 for rape (subsection 'a' of Article 120) requires the accused party to prove that the accuser consented to the sexual act. Previously, the requirement for prosecutors was to prove that the sexual contact was forced on the accuser, without his/her consent. Placing the burden of proof on the accused no doubt complicates matters.

Unfortunately, families of the accused also suffer a long ordeal culminating with the final verdict, which must be respected and accepted. It doesn't have to be all doom and gloom – your military lawyer can protect your rights in a situation where all fingers are firmly pointed in your direction.

  • Aggravated Sexual Assault: Individuals convicted of this offense face dishonorable discharge or bad conduct discharge, and confinement of 30 years. They also face the forfeiture of their total pay and allowance.
  • Aggravated Sexual Contact: Individuals convicted of this offense face dishonorable discharge or bad conduct discharge, and confinement of 20 years. They also face the forfeiture of their total pay and allowance.
  • Abusive Sexual Contact: Individuals convicted of this offense face dishonorable discharge or bad conduct discharge, and confinement of 15 years. They also face the forfeiture of their total pay and allowance.


Sensitive matters of rape and sexual misbehavior must be handled with solid arguments, a compelling presentation of evidence and a water-tight defense. A seasoned military lawyer of Jordan's caliber can provide exceptional legal counsel and challenge the validity of the prosecution's claim.

Fighting your case initially may seem an uphill task, but at the end of the day, the best represented side wins. This is why it is advisable to enlist the services of an experienced defense attorney, who – regardless of how the odds are stacked – can be a game-changer and deliver the results you want.

Joseph Jordan is a military defense lawyer who aggressively represents service members in courts-martial. He is a former Army Judge Advocate, and has successfully defended service members in numerous courts-martial against rape and sexual assault. Operating out of Killeen, Texas, Jordan leverages his experience and in-depth knowledge of this practice area to zealously protect your rights.

The unwavering support of an experienced military lawyer can be invaluable in helping obtain an outcome in your favor. If you find yourself embroiled in an offense under the UCMJ Article 120, Rape and Sexual Assault Generally, read below for what you should know.

Contact the firm today by calling (833) 884-2715 or filling out the online contact form you see here.

5 / 5 stars
Joseph Jordan is a very knowledgeable and aggressive lawyer who will fight for your case tooth and nail, and I highly recommend him for military cases. He represented my long-term boyfriend, a lieutenant falsely accused of rape, and he won our case so that my boyfriend got off with no repercussions. I worked with Mr. Jordan over the phone and multiple times in person to prepare as a witness in the trial, and I was impressed by how prepared he was and how intimately he knew the details and intricacies of our case. He answered all of my questions and made sure I understood exactly my role and how the process worked so I felt comfortable and prepared. Mr. Jordan is admittedly aggressive and brusque, but he is a GREAT lawyer who understands the military legal system inside and out and very importantly, he consistently wins tough cases. His services were expensive, but the cost was worth it for us to attack the false accusations and move forward with our lives and careers. I am SO glad we hired Joseph Jordan, and although I hope to never be in a situation like this again, I would hire him again in a heartbeat.
- Alyssa Barnes


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A Winning Track Record in Difficult Cases
A Winning Track Record in Difficult Cases

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Joseph L. Jordan travels around the globe to represent service members in military criminal defense matters.

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