Best Sexual Assault Military Lawyer
A large portion—in fact the large majority—of my practice involves military sexual assault defense. In recent years, Convening Authorities have been preferring more sexual assault charges than ever before. So if you are facing a potential court martial for sexual assault (Article 120), you are probably looking for the best military sexual assault defense attorney. Unfortunately, it may be hard for you to gauge which civilian attorneys would be best to represent you in a court martial for sexual assault. Here are some factors you should consider in selecting the best military lawyer in your sexual assault case:
1. Rules of evidence. How well does the military lawyer know the rules of evidence as they pertain to sexual assault? Can they explain to you Military Rule of Evidence 412 (the so-called “rape shield” law) and how it will apply to your case? Clients often do not recognize how little evidence of an alleged victim’s prior sexual history can actually be introduced in a court martial. A lawyer needs to be prepared to proceed on the assumption that none of this evidence will be admissible
2. Cross-examination style. Many attorneys claim that they will aggressively cross-examine an alleged victim in a sexual assault case. This almost never goes well. Too aggressive a cross-examination of an alleged victim could end up creating sympathy for the victim in the eyes of the panel. The best approach is to treat the alleged victim with respect and to focus on highlighting inconsistencies in her story or uncovering evidence that explains why the alleged victim is either mistaken or not telling the truth.
3. Strategy. What is the civilian military lawyer’s plan for the case? What witnesses do they plan to call and why? What motions do they plan on filing? What are the potential sources of exposure, and how are they planning for those?
4. Theory. What is the civilian military lawyer’s “theory” of the case? What is the narrative that they plan on building and presenting to the judge and/or panel?
5. Ability to effect an alternate disposition. Sometimes, it will not be worth rolling the dice and defending a court martial. If a client is convicted of sexual assault, they will likely face jail time, and will have to register as a sex offender. In light of this, sometimes the best course of conduct is to have a civilian military attorney try to effect an alternate disposition (e.g. pleading guilty to a lesser charge).
Unfortunately, with some of these factors, a client might not know until mid-way through the case whether the military lawyer they have selected for a sexual assault court martial is effectively preparing their case. If an accused feels that their sexual assault court martial preparation by a civilian attorney is not going in the direction they want, it would be a good idea to: a) check with detailed military counsel on his/her opinion of the strategy of the civilian military defense lawyer; or b) reach out to other civilian defense counsel to get a second opinion. Though it might sound surprising, I often get contacted by soldiers who have hired a civilian lawyer for their sexual assault case (they usually don’t tell me that they already have an attorney until the end of the conversation). On one occasion, the soldier decided he no longer wanted to proceed with his chosen civilian military lawyer and hired me instead. At the court martial, I had a dramatically different trial strategy than the previous civilian lawyer. The new strategy worked. The Soldier was acquitted of all sexual assault charges.