Sexual offenses within a unit can severely degrade unit morale, discipline, and integrity. Consequently, commanders (convening authorities) take allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously. A number of factual circumstances can lead to allegations that sexual offenses have been committed. Further, there is a large spectrum of severity with such allegations.
The U.S. military consists of a youthful population. Many members of the armed forces have not reached an age where judgment and maturity has fully developed. Much like college campuses across the United States, one very common scenario in the military community involves acquaintances or friends in a social setting where some or all of the parties consume large amounts of alcohol. With impaired judgment, the parties may take things to a level not previously contemplated. In the aftermath, there are often considerable factual disconnects as to what actually occurred and what the intentions of the parties were. Commanding officers have a duty to investigate and pursue even mildly credible allegations.
Military commanders will typically refer allegations of more serious sexual misconduct to Article 32 investigations and then general courts-martial for resolution. Prosecutors typically charge sexual offenses under UCMJ Article 120. Congress recently modified UCMJ Article 120 so that it now covers a broader spectrum of factual circumstances. Article 120 now covers everything from indecent exposure to aggravated sexual assault. Article 120 also addresses offenses against minors. The sexual assault of a minor is an extremely serious allegation that can lead to a dishonorable discharge and many years of confinement.
Conviction of many sexual offenses will result in designation as a “registered sex offender.” For the most part, States individually manage sexual offender registration within their borders. State officials must analyze and convert military offenses and place them in a State context. Pending reissuance of DOD Instruction 1325.7, this DOD Memorandum from 16 November 2009 clarifies which offenses under the UCMJ will typically lead to registration in the various States. Sexual registration can have life-long implications on every facet of a person’s existence.
If you are facing allegations of sexual misconduct, it is extremely important that you receive advice from a competent military lawyer at the earliest possible juncture. Early intervention by a competent military lawyer can significantly alter the course and the outcome of your case.
Jeffrey Meeks and Bruce White have extensive experience in defending sexual misconduct allegations. Please call for a consultation.