Military Criminal Defense of Sexual Assault
According to the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response report for fiscal year 2018, more than 20,000 service members reported sexual assaults in that fiscal year. The figure represents a disturbing 38 percent increase in sexual assaults in only a two-year period.
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response report is based on a survey of approximately 100,000 active-duty troops. The survey has been conducted by the Pentagon every two years since 2006.
Of the 20,000+ reported sexual assaults, about 7,500 of the purported victims were men. Men constitute about 80 percent of all military personnel, and they were the reported victims in more than 36 percent of the reported sexual assaults, according to the Defense Department report.
IF YOU ARE FALSELY ACCUSED UNDER ARTICLE 120, WHO CAN HELP?
In the 21st century, the Pentagon has invested millions of dollars in sexual assault prevention efforts, education programs, and resources for sexual assault victims. The Defense Department now has scores of sexual assault specialists and victims’ advocates.
While the Pentagon has abundant resources for sexual assault and rape victims, there’s virtually nothing for those who must endure the trauma of a false sex crime accusation.
It’s an atmosphere that is making it increasingly difficult to fight sexual assault charges. But if you are charged under Article 120, fighting the charge will be imperative, because the penalties for a conviction are harsh, and the consequences can follow you for the rest of your life.
WHAT DO ARTICLE 120 DEFENDANTS NEED TO KNOW?
A sexual assault or rape accusation is one of the most humiliating and traumatic of all criminal charges. If you belong to this nation’s armed forces and you are facing a general court martial for sexual assault under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UMCJ):
- If you’ve been falsely accused of sexual assault or rape, will you be able to prove it?
- What can happen if you are convicted of rape or sexual assault?
- What steps should you take to defend yourself against a sexual assault allegation?
If you’ll keep reading, you’ll learn some of the answers to these questions.
HOW IS RAPE DEFINED BY ARTICLE 120?
Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice criminalizes rape and sexual assault, “penetrative” offenses that are carried out with force, threats of force, fear, or when the victim is incapable of consenting.
“Touching” offenses – aggravated sexual contact and abusive sexual contact – are also defined and outlawed by Article 120. Article 120 defines rape as any, or any combination of, the following:
- the use of unlawful force against a victim
- using force that causes or is likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm
- threatening or placing a victim in fear that he or she will suffer death, grievous bodily harm, or kidnapping
- first rendering a victim unconscious
- Force or threat of force, or without the knowledge or consent of the victim, any drug, intoxicant, or any similar substance that impairs the ability of a victim to appraise or control conduct
HOW IS SEXUAL ASSAULT DEFINED BY ARTICLE 120?
Article 120 defines sexual assault as any, or any combination of, the following:
- threatening or placing a victim in fear
- causing bodily harm to a victim
- fraudulently representing that the assault serves a professional purpose
- inducing in any way a belief that the perpetrator is someone else
- committing the assault upon a victim when the perpetrator knows (or should know) that the victim is unconscious, asleep, or otherwise unaware of the assault
- committing the assault upon a victim when the victim is incapable of consent
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR A CONVICTION UNDER ARTICLE 120?
If you are an active service member, a conviction for a sexual offense under Article 120 can mean a dishonorable discharge, a prison term ranging from seven years to life, mandatory sex offender registration, and the complete loss of health care benefits, military pension, and pay.
However, in preparation for an Article 120 trial, the right military defense lawyer will launch a full investigation into the circumstances of the alleged crime.
HOW WILL YOUR ATTORNEY HANDLE YOUR ARTICLE 120 CASE?
The first question your attorney will seek to answer is this: Is any part of the accusation against you true? False sexual assault accusations in the military are frequent, are made for a variety of motives, and sometimes, false sexual assault accusations are made for no apparent reason at all.
Your attorney may cross-examine the alleged victim to uncover any inconsistencies in his or her story, call character witnesses to affirm your good reputation, and use the testimony of expert medical witnesses to dispute any forensic evidence that’s being offered against you.
Even if the prosecution claims to have “DNA evidence” or other forensic evidence against you, that evidence does not guarantee a conviction. Defense attorneys work routinely with consultants and experts who can cast doubt on any DNA or other forensic evidence.
In the worst scenario – the evidence against you is convincing and you are convicted of an Article 120 sexual offense – the right military defense lawyer will try to secure a reduced sentence in your case. In some cases, a reduced sentence will be the best possible outcome.
That’s because a rape conviction under Article 120 can potentially send the offender to prison for life. A sexual assault conviction can be penalized with a thirty-year prison sentence.
HAVING AN ATTORNEY IS YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT AS A DEFENDANT
A conviction for aggravated sexual contact can trigger a twenty-year sentence, and for abusive sexual contact, the sentence is up to seven years. If you face any of these charges, you are going to need a military attorney who has extensive experience representing Article 120 defendants.
If the government accuses you of committing a sex crime as an active member of the armed forces, the United States Constitution guarantees you the right to be represented by a lawyer in any case in which you could be jailed for more than six months.
If you are the defendant in an Article 120 case, you must be represented by a military defense attorney who has handled similar cases and who knows how to challenge DNA evidence, cross-examine accusers, and ensure that your rights are not violated at any stage of the legal process.
We constantly hear and read about the rights of victims, but defendants also have rights. If you are charged with a sex crime in the military, your future will be at risk. You must exercise your rights and obtain a military defense attorney’s assistance immediately.