“You have the right to be represented by military counsel. You may also be represented by civilian counsel at no expense to the government.” Wait, what? Your Commander just accused you of misconduct, and your head is spinning. Before you can even process the accusation, he is reading you your rights. This isn’t happening to you. Except, it is. You made it back home, you googled “UCMJ Lawyer” clicked through a handful of other websites with bigger marketing budgets than us, and now you’re here seeing what we have to say.
Step 1. Shut the eff up. It doesn’t matter what you want to say or why you want to say it. It doesn’t matter if you want to say “I didn’t do it,” or “I’m sorry.” What ever it is you think you want to say, don’t. Don’t talk to your buddy, don’t talk you your chain of command, and don’t talk to CID, OSI, NCIS, or anybody else that says “hey, bro, we’re cool, we just wanna know what happened…” Oh, you already knew that? Well, good. Now shut the eff up.
Step 2. Go talk to Trial Defense Services. Yes, the military defense lawyers at your camp, fort, post, base, or station. They’re real lawyers. (You can check their wall for their law school diploma. Look right above their airborne certificate and right below their first set of regimental colors.) They are well trained, and they have experience defending servicemembers just like you.
Step 3. Question your Military Defense Attorney. This might feel weird, because he or she probably out ranks you, but remember – they work for you. Ask them when they graduated from law school. Ask them how long they’ve been practicing military law. Ask them how many cases like yours they’ve had. Ask them how many trials they’ve won. Ask them when they PCS. (If they PCS in less than a year, they probably won’t be your attorney at trial.) Ask them if anyone else in their office will be working on your case. There will probably be a higher-ranking lawyer that will check in periodically. That higher-ranking lawyer may even be the one to defend you at trial. Ask that higher-ranking lawyer the same questions.
Step 4. Decide if you want to bet your career or your freedom on the answers those Military Defense Attorneys gave you. Every branch of the military has some outstanding lawyers, and hopefully one of them has been assigned to your case. Hopefully, you’ve got Captain Highspeed who’s working under Lieutenant Colonel Low-Drag. They both just PCSed, so they have the next three years to work on your case. They both handled a case just like yours at their last duty station, and they both won. They have been trying military cases for the last five years and fifteen years, respectively. They care about you; they understand your career; and they eat prosecutors for lunch. You can bet your future on these lawyers, and you should. If you didn’t get Highspeed and Low-Drag, remember Step 1 and proceed to Step 5.
Step 5. Call us. We eat prosecutors for lunch. We understand your career. We care about you. We have decades of experience. We have tried cases and won. We aren’t going anywhere. We will be with you from the moment you call us until the end of your case. You can bet your future on our lawyers.