Sexual assault allegations may have severe implications for military personnel, which is why they may consider working with a civilian lawyer.
Sexual assault allegations, both valid and unsubstantiated, are becoming more common in the U.S. military branches. In fact, there were 963 cases identified by the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard in 2015 alone. Some service members in New Jersey and elsewhere who find themselves charged with sexual misconduct and facing court martial rely on the attorney provided to them by the Judge Advocate General, or Jag, corp. However, there are several reasons why it may benefit them to hire a civilian attorney to aid in their defense.
An independent investigation
Due to the resources available to them, military legal representatives may rely on the case details provided by the authorities and prosecution. Civilian defense attorneys, however, may conduct their own investigations. This may include talking to witnesses and otherwise gathering evidence they may use to help prove their clients did not act inappropriately or illegally.
Extensive trial experience
The credentials of military counsel assigned to those facing courts-martial for sexual assault allegations are often strong. Due to the structuring and other factors, though, it is not uncommon to find that they do not have significant experience handling these types of cases. Civilian attorneys who handle military law cases, on the other hand, are often familiar with the ins and outs of sexual assault cases, and have significant experience taking such matters to trial.
Representation with autonomy
While they may be assigned to provide criminal defense to those charged with sexual assault, military attorneys are subject to the chain of command. In some cases, this may affect their ability to act solely in their clients' best interests, without bias or other influences. Free of the military bureaucracy, civilian lawyers may act with autonomy. This allows them to more freely call out even high-ranking military personnel for misconduct or misrepresentations of the facts.
Two attorneys for the price of one
Under the military code, those facing courts-martial may be provided with military defense counsel at no expense to themselves. Should they choose to hire and pay for civilian legal representation, they are allowed to retain the services of their military lawyer. Therefore, they may build a legal team, with the experience, knowledge and resources, of their military and civilian attorneys. This may aid in investigating, gathering evidence and otherwise building their defenses.
Protecting the interests of military personnel
For the military personnel stationed in New Jersey and elsewhere, allegations of sexual assault may not only carry the potential for severe penalties, they may be career ending. Therefore, those who are facing court-martial or other legal military action may benefit from obtaining legal counsel. An attorney may look out for their interests throughout the process, and advise them as to the best course of action given their situations.