Why Should You Hire a Civilian Attorney for Your Court-Martial?

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Why Should You Hire a Civilian Attorney for Your Court-Martial?

If the government provides you with a free JAG attorney, why should you pay for one? A court-martial is a serious matter with serious consequences. Using a “free” appointed JAG attorney may turn out to be costly to you in the long run.

A court-martial is not a fair fight. The government goes to great lengths to investigate, prosecute and find you guilty. This could result in you losing everything you have worked so hard to accomplish. Your military career, your future and even your freedom are at stake. All that you have in your corner is a military-appointed attorney with minimal trial experience.

The military law attorneys at Tully Rinckey PLLC understand what is on the line. They have served in the JAG Corps before becoming civilian attorneys. They have experienced courts-martial from both sides – the prosecution and the defense. They know the military, they know the law, and they will use their experience to aggressively fight for you.

Timing is everything

You should be consulting an attorney as soon as you learn you may be under criminal investigation. The military will often not assign you a JAG until charges are preferred against you. This means you may not have any legal representation while you are being investigated or being questioned – a critical time in an investigation. Often times a criminal defense attorney can intervene before you are criminally charged to negotiate an alternative disposition. It is also important to signal to the prosecution that you are going to fight any charges aggressively, hiring aggressive civilian defense counsel before you are charged signals this to the Government prosecutors.

This is why hiring a knowledgeable and experienced civilian defense attorney with military law experience during the investigation phase is critical. You can consult the civilian attorney while you are under investigation and potentially being asked to be questioned by law enforcement rather than after the fact. If a question can lead to self-incrimination, your civilian attorney will instruct you to invoke your Article 31 rights. If charges are preferred against you, your civilian attorney will work with you and your assigned JAG defense attorney – should you choose to have one – to create the best possible defense.

Do not wait to be assigned JAG representation when an investigation begins. Consult a civilian attorney with strong military defense experience to get a jump start on your defense.

A one-sided fight

From the moment you are charged until the sentence is delivered, the Government stacks the odds against you. First, they use their vast resources (CID, NCIS, OCI) to thoroughly investigate you. Then, they assemble a team of attorneys to prosecute the case in front of a military judge. Usually the Prosecution will assign two prosecutors to each case, supervised by a Chief of Military Justice who reports to a Staff Judge Advocate. In most cases you will be detailed one defense Counsel.

You are offered a JAG attorney to represent you free of charge, but not until the matter moves to the court-martial stage. This leaves you at a disadvantage in two ways:

  • Time crunch – JAG attorneys often have heavy case workloads and travel TDY on multiple cases throughout their region, so they don’t have a lot of time to meet with individual service members about their specific cases. Additionally, a court-martial can be scheduled shortly after charges are preferred leaving you and your military-appointed attorney left with little time to prepare a defense, interview witnesses or retain expert witnesses.
  • Experience matters –Many JAG defense attorneys are just beginning to practice law, and most have not had much experience trying cases before a court-martial panel. This lack of experience affects the quality of defense you receive. Additionally, being a member of the military themselves, they may be afraid to challenge the chain of command.

With little time to prepare and an inexperienced attorney representing you, the odds are not in your favor.

Everything is on the line

A guilty verdict in a court-martial is not just a black mark on your military record. You can lose everything you have, including:

  • Your military job
  • Your military rank
  • Your pay and any enlistment bonuses
  • Your military retirement
  • Your VA benefits

All told, you could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay and benefits. If that wasn’t enough, you can be sentenced to confinement in a military prison, and if yours is a sexual offense, you may also have to register as a sex offender in the State you return to after confinement.

What happens to you in a court-martial not only affects your military career, but also affects your ability to find work as a civilian. An other-than-honorable discharge, Federal conviction and prison time are viewed poorly by employers, making it difficult for you to get a civilian job and move on.

Learned counsel is critical

Not all military legal matters require a civilian attorney, but if you’re facing a serious charge such as desertion, insubordination, sexual assault or manslaughter, hiring one can make a significant difference in your defense.

Civilian attorneys have spent years focusing on a specific practice area. They have accumulated hundreds of hours in courtrooms defending their clients. They don’t back down from a challenge during cross-examination. They are confident in their abilities and their knowledge.

Though you will have to pay out of pocket to hire a civilian attorney, it is a worthwhile investment when you consider everything you can lose in a court-martial. You can still retain your military-appointed attorney, but adding a civilian attorney gives you a level of legal knowledge you might not otherwise have.

Why hire a Tully Rinckey military defense attorney?

Tully Rinckey PLLC’s attorneys are highly regarded within the military law practice arena – they were service members long before they became lawyers. Gaining their education in the field rather than the classroom makes them uniquely qualified to both communicate with military personnel and gain respect in military courts.  They have all served in the military with honor, and they have extensive knowledge with the Uniform Code of Military Justice through their time spent in the JAG Corps.

Founding Partner Greg T. Rinckey, Esq., a former JAG officer, has handled 100s of military cases for every branch of service. He has appeared on local media outlets to discuss case rulings, and he has written about criminal defense strategies in military law matters. Partner and former Senior Military Judge, Navy JAG Captain (Ret.) Bethany L. Payton-O’Brien is highly experienced and can use her knowledge as a former military Judge to your advantage in formulating successful defense strategies. Additionally, our Military Defense team has Colonel (Ret.) Larry D. Youngner and Brigadier General (Ret.) Harris Jay Kline. Both attorneys have extensive military defense experience and international military law experience; Youngner serving as a judge advocate in the Air Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, Qatar and Germany, and Kline serving as the Head of the Legal Office at the U.S. Embassy in Australia and an Air Force base in Singapore. Today, they are AV Preeminent-rated and AVVO Top-Rated civilian attorneys. Managing Partners Anthony J. Kuhn and Sean C. Timmons are both highly-decorated veterans and criminal defense counsel as well.

Tully Rinckey PLLC attorneys will meet with you as soon as you are being investigated, rather than wait for the charges to be preferred. We will gather the facts surrounding your case, advise you of your right to refuse to answer any investigator’s questions and construct an aggressive defensive strategy for your court-martial.

During the court-martial, our attorneys will aggressively cross-examine witnesses, and challenge the chain of command whenever necessary. We will fight for the best possible outcome for your matter.

If you are the subject of an investigation, do not wait until charges have been preferred against you. Contact Tully Rinckey at 8885294543 or info@tullylegal.com to schedule a consultation today.

Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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