To protect your freedom, your career, and your good name, hiring civilian counsel as opposed to active military counsel may be preferred or even necessary for a number of reasons. For example, when you accept free legal counsel provided by the military, your case is assigned to an attorney based on who is available at the moment. That means your own preferences or interests are not taken into account. Simply put, you get who you get. On the other hand, when you hire outside legal counsel from a private civilian defense attorney, you have the power to choose someone you trust and feel comfortable with handling your case. You have a say in who represents you, and you are able to factor in your own preferences. As such, make sure you choose someone with the right attitude, experience, time, dedication, and any other qualities that matter to you.
Experience and freedom of maneuver is another benefit to hiring civilian counsel. While all military criminal defense attorneys are hardworking, smart people, they are not experienced. In most cases across the service, the military attorneys that would be assigned to defend only have a few years of experience litigating – half of which is typically as a prosecutor and more frequently the litigation billet they are in is their first and they have no experience as an attorney prior to the military. So, while they are smart, they have not been an attorney for something like 21 years, been a junior and senior prosecutor, junior and senior defense attorney and advised the commanders like the one prosecuting you in your case.
I have done all such jobs and more. So, one of the reasons to hire a civilian criminal defense attorney is their superior experience which is typically significantly greater than the defense counsel detailed to your case. The other main reason to hire the civilian defense attorney is that they are not in the military, so they do not have the concerns of career advancement, future relationships with opposing counsel and the legal advisors at the command in question. These sorts of issues can consciously or unconsciously chill a young officer/ attorney in the zealous pursuit of your rights. As a retired Lieutenant Colonel, I do not have any allegiance to the military. My time is uniform is over and I can focus exclusively on defending your rights.
There are many instances within the military when a service member can find themselves in a situation where they need to talk to an attorney. A prime example would be when you become aware of being under investigation or merely approached by authorities wishing to interview or speak with you about a matter. In such a situation, the respective service defense organizations have no authority to detail you a counsel. However, there is nothing preventing you from hiring a civilian criminal defense attorney who practices military law and can advise you of your rights. The attorney can help you determine the severity of the issue and whether it serves your interests to cooperate versus maintain your silence. Either way a decision on how best to protect your life and liberty is only achieved after consultation and advice of a qualified attorney.
All types of military cases from assisting as early as the investigative stage to defending you at a fully contested trial and everything in between.
The Wilkie Law Firm stands ready to represent military members throughout the United States. My office utilizes 21 century technology to connect and communicate through a variety of virtual formats including phone apps, virtual meetings, file sharing and email. I would travel to your location as required for court appearances, an Article 32, or a trial. The expenses of my travel must be paid by you, and this is something we can discuss in advance. Regardless of where you are in the US, you can hire an aggressive experienced Devil Dog to defend you.
Again, as with most things in life you get what you pay for … if you needed surgery to save your life you would not base your decision on who was the cheapest, you would look for the one you thought was the most experience and do the best job to help treat or solve your problem. In paying a civilian criminal defense attorney you are buying things like experience, control of the courtroom, advanced negotiation skills, an extremely well-developed ability to think on their feet, and experience that enables one to see issues that others don’t.
Whenever you are in trouble with the military, you need to do your best to protect yourself. A good civilian criminal attorney will have a significant amount of experience dealing with military law and in military court rooms. A good civilian criminal attorney will not be afraid to be aggressive with the government. And the military will often treat a case differently if it knows you have retained an aggressive attorney who knows what they are doing and who is not afraid of the courtroom. And in the context of the severity and stakes of the situation the cost is an investment in your future.
If the U.S. Government is coming at you, trying to take away your liberty, money, career, reputation – that is worth quite a bit. And an unfavorable outcome could result in loss of a GI Bill, retirement, healthcare etc. all of which if added up is worth a considerable amount of money. And while outcomes cannot be guaranteed – you only get one opportunity to deal with the problem, why not do it with the help of a paid professional.
It depends. Once you contact me and we have our first consultation which includes a description of your case and the facts can we discuss the best way forward. And the cost is dictated on things like the anticipated outcome of your case, are we heading to a General-Court Martial or a plea agreement? If you decide to hire me it will be in a fully informed fashion to include how much my services will cost. Like most civilian criminal defense attorneys, I typically charge a flat fee for types of cases (e.g., court-martial versus administrative separation) rather than billing by the hour. Any money paid and not yet earned is placed in a special account and remains there until the appropriate time – I do not spend money I have not earned.
Yes. But stop talking and do not make any more statements. Depending on the facts, there are legal arguments that can be made to possibly suppress such a statement. It will just depend on the situation and something that you can discuss with me during your initial consultation.
Short answer is no. At least not until you have had a chance to speak with qualified counsel about your case. It is only after a properly experienced attorney has heard the facts of your situation and applied their experience and the law can they give you informed advice as to whether you should speak to authorities or not. In many cases it is not in your legal interests to speak with those investigating you – even if you are innocent and just want to “clear things up.” Rarely has a trip down to the station to make such a statement or answer such questions ended well for people.
The fact that the government has told you that you popped positive is a far cry from convicting you of using whatever the controlled substance is that they claim was in your urine. An experienced civilian criminal defense attorney can help you find the seams and gaps in their case and defend your rights in such a case. There could be problems with the lab where the urine was tested, problems with the chain of custody of the sample. Or problems with the administration of the urinalysis program. Or any number of other lines of attack.
First, do not panic being accused of something is a long way from being convicted of a crime. However, in today’s world it can be difficult when being accused in some people’s minds equals guilt. But you enjoy a presumption of innocence that is absolute and something that you should never forget. Unfortunately, people have been known to wrongfully accuse people of many types of crimes even something as serious as rape. So, just because someone said you did it does not make it so.
Second, stop talking to anyone other than your lawyer about the case or allegations. Any attorney you hire has confidential relationship with you and the things you discuss together is protected within what is called and attorney-client privilege. The same cannot be said for your conversations, with your parents, significant other, barracks buddies and especially the chain of command.
Third, seek legal advice immediately. Start looking for a lawyer and find someone you trust and fell comfortable working with on your case.
Fourth, keep doing your job and do it well. Do not give them an excuse to charge you with more alleged crimes.
Lastly, stay far away from the party who made the claim against you. Be polite and professional just do not talk to them, be alone with them nor communicate with them in any way.