Military Sexual Assault Charges
Military sexual assault offenses are prosecuted under Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 120 (Rape and Sexual Assault) and Article 125 (Forcible Sodomy). Congress had concerns about how sexual assault cases in the military were being handled, so Congress recently passed new laws to deal with these concerns.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed in December 2013, and signed into law by the President, makes major changes to the UCMJ and how sexual assault offenses in the military are investigated, prosecuted, and limits actions convening authorities can take on findings and sentence after an accused is found guilty.
Under the new law, UCMJ Articles 120 and 125 now have mandatory minimum sentences. If convicted, an enlisted defendant must receive a dishonorable discharge and officer defendants must receive a dismissal. Sexual assault cases must now be referred to a general court-martial and can no longer be prosecuted at a special court-martial or summary court-martial. Finally, there is no statute of limitations for sexual assault cases.
A military attorney must now serve as an Article 32 investigating officer. An alleged victim of sexual assault is no longer required to appear and testify at an Article 32 investigation hearing.
The convening authority is now prohibited from considering the military character of the accused when deciding to prosecute an accused for sexual assault. If a convening authority’s staff judge advocate (SJA) recommends a sexual assault case be prosecuted but the convening authority disagrees, then the case must be referred to the secretary of the service over that command for a final decision. In cases where both the SJA and convening authority decide not to prosecute a sexual assault case, the case must be forwarded to the next highest general court-martial convening authority for review.
At trial, the alleged victim is now represented by a special victims counsel who is responsible for providing support and advice to the alleged victim to include ensuring the victim’s rights are not violated under the Rape Shield Rule which prohibits the admission of evidence regarding sexual predisposition of an alleged victim of sexual assault.
For sex crimes, the convening authority is now prohibited from changing guilty findings regardless of the length of a sentence.
Facing Sexual Assault Charges?
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