Sexual assault is a crime taken seriously by the U.S. military, and claims of rape and sexual assault are often met with focused and intense prosecution. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) provides guidelines for how those in charge of pursuing justice should proceed if one service member accuses another of a sexual offense, and creates the structure to enable both prosecution and defense. Under the UCMJ, service members accused of sexual assault could be facing severe penalties via the court-martial process and by civilian authorities in some cases.

Sexual assault is defined as when one person commits a sexual act upon another by threatening them, inflicting fear, causing bodily harm, using a false pretense, or pretending to be another person. This crime also includes unwanted sexual conduct upon an individual who is sleeping or incapacitated. If a person is charged with aggravated sexual assault, this implies that someone has accused them of using force or fear to commit unwanted sexual conduct.

The court-martial process is significantly different from civilian criminal trials, but those accused still have the right to an attorney, a right to confront evidence and witnesses, and the right to appeal the final decision. Typically, when the alleged victim reports the incident, the accused’s immediate commander conducts an inquiry. The commander must decide whether to impose administrative or non-judicial punishment or to forward the case to a higher authority.

Military Sexual Assault Penalties

Penalties for sexual assault include dismissal and a dishonorable discharge. Additionally, depending on the circumstances, a conviction can result in confinement in a military prison. In extreme cases, rape convictions could carry a lifetime sentence. Those who are discharged could also be forced to register as a sex offender, a status that will follow them in their civilian lives.

If a servicemember has been accused of military sexual assault, they can seek advice outside of their military representation by contacting an established criminal defense lawyer. There are several defenses a skilled attorney could recommend, including a lack of convincing evidence, the question of consent, and misidentification of the assailant. Let the attorneys at Berry Law decide which tactic will fit the situation best. Our lawyers have more than 100 years of collective legal experience to offer each case and are dedicated to helping individuals fight against wrongful accusations.

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