Military Sex Crimes Defense Attorney
Sexual assault is a serious crime, regardless of whether it happens in a civilian or military space. Reported instances of sexual assault in the military are on the rise, though under-reporting remains an issue. Due to this growing incidence of sexual assault and the occurrence of several high-profile cases, the Department of Defense has started to focus on better enforcing military sexual assault law. It’s made reporting sexual assault much easier and has worked to provide better access to victim services in order to help victims cope with their experience.
Unlike civilians, military personnel aren’t tried in civilian courts for sexual assault. Instead, they face a court-martial process with its own procedures, penalties, and possible defenses against charges. In addition to the articles on sexual assault, the Uniform Code of Military Justice also has articles regarding child pornography and statutory rape, which have similarly harsh penalties.
The UCMJ Definition of Sexual Assault
The Uniform Code of Military Justice defines sexual assault as an event whereby a person commits a sexual act on another person, either by threatening or causing bodily harm, falsely stating that the sexual act has a professional purpose, or by pretending to be another person. Sexual assault can also be carried out on a sleeping or unconscious person, as well as any person who is legally unable to provide consent, such as someone who is underage or has a physical or mental disability.
The age of consent for members of the military is 16 years of age, and any service member who has sex with a minor under the age of 16 is committing a crime. If the sex was consensual, it is considered “carnal knowledge” and can’t be punishable by death. However, if the sexual act was non-consensual, then it can be punishable by death, though it more often carries a sentence of dishonorable discharge and prison time.
The more severe version of sexual assault is aggravated sexual assault. This is when a service member uses force or fear to commit a sexual act on another person. It’s very similar to the civilian charge of rape, but leveling the charge doesn’t require any evidence of penetration.
The final aspect of sexual assault is that the threat of sexual violence can also be considered sexual assault, regardless of whether or not the threat was then carried out.
What to Do if You’re a Victim of Military Sexual Assault
The Department of Defense has done a lot to make reporting of sexual assault simpler and easier than before. There are a number of resources, both to help you report the crime as well as to help you cope with the after-effects. The DoD provides recommendations for service members or civilians who believe they have been assaulted by military personnel:
- Find a safe space away from the alleged attacker.
- Seek medical attention.
- Ask for a sexual assault forensic examination and offer a urine sample if you believe you were drugged.
- Preserve evidence until the forensic team has completed gathering evidence.
- Write down everything you remember about the alleged attack to keep the details clear.
- Consider contacting a rape crisis hotline, which can provide assistance and pair you with an advocate. In El Paso County, the 24-hour civilian hotline is (719) 633-3819, and the DoD Safe Helpline is (877) 995-5247.
What to Do if You’re Charged with Military Sexual Assault
While the court-martial process may differ from civilian courts, there are still many similarities. You are presumed innocent, and it’s the prosecution’s job to prove you guilty. You have the right to counsel, the right to confront the evidence and witnesses and the right to appeal. You have the right to defend yourself against these charges, and common defense strategies include undermining the prosecution’s case by providing expert testimony, as well as having an alibi or being misidentified.
After the alleged victim makes their report about the incident, the accused’s immediate commander must conduct an inquiry. This inquiry can involve both military and civilian police staff and involves gathering all the evidence about the incident by talking to witnesses and compiling forensic evidence. Once the inquiry is completed, the commander can either decide to take no action, to impose administrative punishment, or to take the matter up to a higher authority. This process is currently under review and may be changed in the near future.
Any service member that is found guilty of sexual assault faces a number of penalties ranging from dismissal to military prison time. If the sexual assault is determined to be aggravated sexual assault, then the penalties are much harsher and can include execution. All service members that are found guilty of sex crimes, including sexual assault, statutory rape, or possession of child pornography, also have to register as sex offenders, which has a dramatic impact on a person’s life.
Getting Legal Help
If you have been accused of sexual assault, you need to have the best legal help possible, and a civilian lawyer can also offer many advantages to your case. They can work alongside your military defense attorney to draw up the best possible strategy to defend you before and during your court-martial process. They understand the nuances and complexities of sexual assault cases and their expertise can be the key factor in winning your case.
If you’re in the Army and stationed at Fort Carson or are part of the Air Force at Peterson Air Force base, you have the advantage of being close to some of the best sex crimes lawyers in Colorado Springs. The law firm of Anaya-McKedy, P.C., has years of experience in criminal law and has worked on many military cases. If you find yourself accused of military sexual assault, give us a call to find out how we can help you with your case.