Military Investigations: Your Attorney’s Role
While law enforcement works to verify your accuser’s version of events, your attorney should be working to verify yours. When this is done properly, your legal team will be ready to refute the prosecution’s narrative and set the record straight throughout the case and at trial.
One word of caution: Do NOT conduct this investigation yourself. You almost certainly will be accused of obstructing justice. Investigations require a high level of legal knowledge and investigative experience. You need an attorney doing this work on your behalf, who will often further employ professional and independent investigators to gather important information.
Witness interviews will be at the core of your military attorney’s investigation. In addition to people with information that might be helpful to your case, your attorney may try to interview your accuser. To set up the interview, they will need the approval of the Special Victims Counsel assigned to the accuser and follow the rules associated with this process.
If possible, your attorney should also visit the site of the alleged crime—preferably when the lighting and weather are similar to those at the time of the incident. You or one of the other witnesses may want to go with your military counsel to point out what was happening where and when.
Collection and Organization of Other Evidence
Unlike assigned military defense attorneys, civilian attorneys have the power in courts-martial to subpoena evidence. Your civilian attorney will be able to request a subpoena requiring the accuser to turn over electronic evidence such as photos and text messages. Time-stamped pictures of the two of you having fun together, for example, could cast the allegation in a whole different light. The best military lawyers will also be tracking your accuser’s public social media accounts for this same reason.
Motive to Fabricate
In many cases, your attorney is seeking evidence that your accuser is biased against you or has a motive to fabricate their accusation. Motive to fabricate is often the single most important part of the defense in a sexual assault case, and we have seen shocking fabrications over the years.
Is your accuser married? Could the accusation be an attempt to cover up the fact that this was a consensual affair? Is the accuser a co-worker who feels slighted? Are they generally regarded as reliable and truthful, with a good memory for details? Has your accuser made sexual assault accusations before, and were they credible?
To answer these questions and determine the presence of bias or motive to fabricate, a good attorney will use every legal tool at their disposal to obtain electronic evidence and other records, as well as interview a broad spectrum of witnesses.
Hire a Military Defense Attorney
There are so many reasons why a complete and thorough investigation is important when defending a military service member against an accusation of misconduct or criminal behavior. Simply stated, there is no substitute for it. If you’re facing a court martial, administrative separation board, or other charge of misconduct, be sure to hire the best lawyer you can to protect your rights, and one that is willing to commit the time and resources to uncover all evidence that will clear your name.