Military & Court Martial Defense FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions about Military Defense Law
Q: Can I afford an experienced military defense lawyer?
With so much to lose, can you afford to leave your fate to an inexperienced military defense attorney who systematically pleads all of their clients guilty? Too often, expert civilian defense lawyers hear potential clients claim that they "cannot afford a good lawyer." While in some cases this is true, most people can afford to hire a quality civilian defense attorney to fight their case. The cost is often less than the potential client paid for his car, and certainly less than the cost of a home. What these people often forget is that if they plead guilty or are found guilty, they will lose everything. Most military members have stable incomes, credit cards, TSP accounts, or family and friends from whom they can borrow money. When everything is on the line, this may be the best money you ever spend.
Q: I'm guilty. Can you help me beat the rap?
A: That's our job.
At The Bilecki Law Group, it does not matter to us if you are guilty, innocent, or somewhere in between. Our goal is to win cases. Some people scoff that we help military members "beat the rap" but we look at it another way. If the panel returns a not guilty verdict, either (1) the Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was innocent and never should have been prosecuted, (2) the prosecutor did not have enough evidence against the accused and should have never charged him or her, or (3) the government had enough evidence but could not get a conviction.
If a "guilty" client beats the rap, it should be the prosecutor who loses sleep at night, not the military defense lawyer. At first glance, the government's cases typically looks overwhelming and many defense attorneys roll over and plead their clients guilty - some even before the Article 32. At The Bilecki Law Group, we refuse to systematically plead our clients guilty - we fight back.
Q: When should I contact and hire a lawyer?
A: As soon as possible.
The earlier you contact an experienced court martial lawyer, the better chance you have to avoid a conviction and going to prison. At The Bilecki Law Group, our toll free number is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we accept calls from anywhere in the world. We are available to handle emergency consultations during the critical first hours of a serious criminal incident such as being charged for
child pornography or a
violent crime. This immediate intervention from an experienced military criminal defense attorney can have a profound positive impact on the case.
If you are suspected of a crime, questioned by law enforcement, or presented with a search authorization, you need to contact an experienced military defense lawyer immediately.
Q: Should I hire an experienced civilian defense lawyer or just take the free lawyer who gets detailed to my case?
A: Hire an experienced civilian defense lawyer.
Facing courts-martial charges is likely the most significant and potentially life-changing event you will face. The decisions you make regarding your representation may very well determine the outcome of your case. By the very nature of the system, many of the free military defense attorneys in the Trial Defense Service are young, inexperienced and systematically plead their clients guilty - helping the military conviction rate hover above 90%. In addition, the military only details you an attorney after charges have been preferred against you.
Often times, your case can be won or lost well before charges are ever leveled against you, and in some cases, we can prevent charges from ever being preferred. Unfortunately, in the military, the deck is stacked against you; there will be experienced law enforcement agents investigating your case and a team of attorneys from the Staff Judge Advocate's office trying to put you in jail. Read our detailed section on "What you're up against" to see why you need an experienced, heavy hitting attorney to ensure that you are aggressively fighting the charges against you.
You would not bring a knife to a gunfight or send in a rookie fighter against Manny Pacquiao - and expect to win. If you are serious about fighting the charges against you, you need an experienced military defense attorney with the global resources required to level the playing field.
Q: Should I hire an attorney just because they are near my military installation?
A: Not Necessarily.
The geographic location of your civilian attorney is certainly a consideration, but it is not as critical as you might expect. Given the nuances and complexities of military law, geography is one factor to be considered, along with skill, experience and law firm resources. The Bilecki Law Group is headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii, providing easy access to all service members in the Pacific (Korea, Japan, Philippines, and Hawaii) as well as the continental United States. We also have affiliates and staff worldwide who are available to work on your case.
The Bilecki Law Group employs cutting edge technology so that much of the initial consultation and preparation can be done via VTC from our offices in Honolulu or one of our affiliate offices regardless of where you are stationed. This does not mean, however, that you meet us for the first time the day of your court martial. We fundamentally believe in conducting a thorough, in-person investigation of your case and travel globally to ensure that you receive the best defense available no matter where you are stationed. We are admitted to practice at all US military courts and installations worldwide and have experience representing service members all over the world.
Q: Do all civilian military lawyers have military experience?
There is no requirement for a civilian military attorney to actually have military experience in order to practice law in the military. There are many lawyers who advertise their services to military members that have never been in the JAG Corps or even the military. All attorneys at The Bilecki Law Group are former JAG Corps Officers and have extensive experience as military defense counsel. Mr. Bilecki served seven years in the Army JAG Corps and was a promotable Captain when he left Active Duty. During those seven years, he was a defense counsel at Fort Hood, Texas, the busiest military criminal jurisdiction in the Army; Mr. Bilecki was a Special Assistant United States Attorney in Hawaii, then the Senior Defense Counsel for the Pacific Rim Region. Be wary of any attorney who has not had prior military experience and extensive experience as either a Senior Defense Counsel or Area Defense Counsel. Without such experience, they will not understand the military system and culture and may have difficulty properly representing you.
Q: Should I hire a former prosecutor?
A: Probably not.
Some former prosecutors have significant courtroom experience and high conviction rates. Unfortunately, a prosecutor is not used to having the deck stacked against him. They are used to running downhill. A prosecutor's witnesses, usually law enforcement agents, are well trained and can make strong impressions on the stand. Only when that same prosecutor crosses over and defends those accused of crimes are his trial skills really tested. Without a regiment of law enforcement agents willing to pursue every lead, that successful prosecutor may find himself struggling to build a winning defense. The former prosecutor can no longer rely on all of the attorneys in the SJA's office, or their team of paralegals and virtually unlimited resources. The former prosecutor will now have to overcome the "defense credibility deficit" and perhaps most importantly, he will need to be able to relate to and understand his client. Typically, this is a very difficult transition to make and one that does not often breed success. Mr. Bilecki and the attorneys at The Bilecki Law Group are not former career prosecutors but rather, are entrenched attorneys who have dedicated their careers to defending military members accused of crimes.
Q: Should I hire a retired Colonel?
A: No, unless he or she has had significant time recently defending service members.
Many retired Lieutenant Colonels and Colonels open brick and mortar legal offices near a military installation and offer their services to military members to supplement their retirement income. These services often include not only criminal defense, but family law, legal assistance, security clearance assistance and so on. Due to the very nature of the JAG Corps, they typically will not have had significant experience defending service members in the last decade or two of their military career. In the JAG Corps, the vast majority of prosecutors and defense attorneys are Captains (O-3) and serve as a prosecutor or defense attorney for less than two years. After that, and as they become more senior in rank, they essentially become managers or advisors, no longer doing battle in the trenches of the courtroom. In this business, being out of the courtroom for any significant time can be fatal, as the law is constantly changing and trial advocacy is a skill that must be kept sharp. Moreover, a retired senior officer still receives a paycheck every month from Uncle Sam and may still be a "company man." Unless they have spent their careers and significant time after retirement exclusively in the trenches defending service members at trial, proceed with caution when considering the retired Colonel to defend you.
Q. If I am questioned by law enforcement, should I provide a statement?
A. Absolutely Not.
A service member being questioned by law enforcement may think it is in their best interest to cooperate with them. It is in no way in your best interest to talk to law enforcement. CID, OSI and NCIS agents routinely tell suspects that if they give a statement and "play ball" they will not get charged. This is a lie and a common technique used by deceptive law enforcement agents. MPs and Special Agents have no intention whatsoever of helping you out if you "play ball." CID or NCIS agents are not interrogating you to help you out, they are trying to close the case - and at your expense. Resist the temptation to speak with law enforcement without first having contacted an experienced military defense attorney. Instead, inform the law enforcement of the following:
- You are going to remain silent.
- You want to speak with an attorney immediately.
If law enforcement agents keep trying to talk to you, don't say anything. We have had clients tell us that when they insisted that they wanted to speak with a lawyer before further questioning, CID agents pressed the client to waive that right. Some agents have told suspects that a lawyer would only make matters worse and that they, the agents, were the only ones who could help them. These are lies - the fact that you refused to speak with the law enforcement cannot be used against you at trial. Do not panic and do not allow law enforcement agents to bait you into breaking your silence.
Q: If I don't provide a statement, will my command and law enforcement assume I am guilty?
A: They already think you are guilty.
The reality is that if you are being investigated or facing court-martial charges, many people already think you are guilty. Whether you are guilty or truly innocent, it is normal to want to explain your side of the story, even though doing so usually helps land you in prison sooner. If you are questioned by your command or law enforcement, immediately invoke your rights and seek legal counsel. Anything you want to say now can be said through your lawyer.
Q: If I provide a statement, will my command or prosecutors go easy on me?
Anything you say can and will be used against you. Questioning from your command and certainly from law enforcement is designed to get you to provide a confession, not to help you out. If your command or law enforcement suspects you of a crime, they will do anything and everything possible to get you to admit to it. Your statement will only help them convict you and put you in prison sooner. For more information, please read our extensive section on defending "confession" cases. Bottom line: if you are being questioned, invoke your rights and speak with an experienced military defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Military Defense Lawyer Frequently Asked Questions for Innocent & Guilty Pleas
Q: If I already made a statement to my command or investigators, can I still fight my case?
A: Absolutely, it just makes our job harder.
There is no question that if you have already made a statement, you need an experienced attorney who understands interrogations and who has experience winning "confession" cases. If you are in this situation and have already been detailed a free military defense lawyer, ask them how many confession cases they has won in the last 12-24 months, and do the same with any prospective civilian defense attorneys. At The Bilecki Law Group, we take on and aggressively fight "confession" cases. See our recent case results for a summary of the "confession" cases Mr. Bilecki has won in the past 12-24 months.
Q: If I invoke my rights and demand a lawyer, can law enforcement still talk to me?
A: No, but they may try to.
If you invoke your rights and demand a lawyer, your command and law enforcement cannot legally question you regarding your case. Not surprisingly, law enforcement agents in the military often disregard the law if it means "closing a case," and they may even attempt to get other Soldiers to question you about your case. Another deceitful method is called a "pretext phone call," where another Soldier, the alleged victim, or another person will call you from a law enforcement office and record your conversation. Typically, law enforcement has provided a script to use or pre-determined questions to ask which are designed to incriminate you. This is not hearsay and whatever you say during that "pretext phone call" can be used as evidence against you. Be extremely cautious of your Facebook or MySpace pages, as investigators typically monitor social networking sites while you are under investigation or waiting on your trial. Anything posted to these sites can be used against you. The only person you should talk to about your case is your military defense attorney, without exception.
Q: Law enforcement never read me my rights, does that mean we won the case?
A: No, but we may be able to suppress your statement.
Before questioning or interrogating a service member who is in custody, or before asking potentially incriminating questions, law enforcement agents and commanders are required to advise them of their rights. If law enforcement agents or your command improperly question a military member without first giving that person Article 31 warnings, a military defense lawyer could file a motion to suppress any statement given by the suspect.
Q: If law enforcement wants to search my barracks room, car, or person, should I give them permission?
The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution and UCMJ guarantees you, as a military member and citizen of the United States, the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. If law enforcement violates your rights, all the evidence obtained as a result of the illegal search and seizure can't be used against you.
If the law enforcement agents ask to search you, your barracks or your car, tell them no and sign the refusal to grant permission section of any permissive search authorization. Look closely at anything that you sign and demand a copy of it immediately; we have caught Army CID agents in Okinawa, Japan doctoring and falsifying search authorizations. The reality is that they may search anyway, but at least you have not given your consent to the search. If you consent to the search and law enforcement agents find evidence of a crime, it is unlikely that a military court will find that the agents violated your rights.
- Court Martial - Wikipedia
- Florida State Bar Association
- American Bar Association
If you are stationed in the Hawaii, Korea, Japan, the continental United States or anywhere on the globe and want to truly fight the charges against you, contact an experienced, skilled court martial defense lawyer and level the playing field.
The Bilecki Law Group, LLLC is a Hawaii Court Martial Defense law firm. As Military Lawyers, we can aggressively represent you against the court martial charges you are facing, including Sexual Assault, Rape, Drug Crimes, Larceny, BAH Fraud, andother Military Criminal Charges under the UMCJ. We represent service members from all services, including the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
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