Frequently Asked Questions
Put bluntly, you can’t afford NOT to hire an experienced military defense lawyer to defend you in court. A knee-jerk reaction that many service members have is to look at defense attorneys “within a budget.” But when you’re convicted of a serious crime that involves forfeiture of pay, a loss of a job (and FUTURE jobs and promotions), and even jail time.
A free lawyer will often tell you to plead guilty and accept the charges. A gunslinger will fight tooth and nail to win your case. The B&T team pulls out all the stops when it comes time to represent you. If you’re in real trouble, you HAVE to double down and fight. There’s no other easy alternative. You’re investing in your future and your freedom, and that’s the best investment you can ever make.
That’s our job.
At Bilecki & Tipon LLLC , it doesn’t matter whether you’re guilty, innocent, or somewhere in between. Our goal is to win cases and protect service members from oftentimes absurd and overzealous charges. Some people scoff that we help our clients “beat the rap,” but we look at it another way. If the jury returns a not-guilty verdict, either (1) the defendant was innocent and never should have been prosecuted, (2) the prosecutor didn’t have enough evidence against the accused and shouldn’t have preferred charges, or (3) the government had enough evidence but could not get a conviction.
If a “guilty” client “beats the rap,” it’s the prosecutor who should lose sleep at night, not the defense lawyer. At first glance, government cases often look overwhelming, and many defense attorneys roll over and plead their clients guilty-some even before the Preliminary Hearing. At Bilecki & Tipon LLLC, we refuse to plead our clients guilty systematically. We fight back.
As soon as possible.
The earlier you contact an experienced court-martial lawyer, the better chance you have to avoid conviction and imprisonment. At Bilecki & Tipon LLLC, our toll-free number is monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we accept calls from anywhere in the world. We’re available to handle emergency consultations during the critical first hours of a serious criminal incident. This immediate intervention from an experienced military criminal defense attorney can have a profoundly positive impact on the case.
If you’re suspected of a crime, questioned by law enforcement, or presented with a search authorization, you need to contact an experienced military defense lawyer immediately.
Yes, they are.
Facing courts-martial charges is likely the most significant and potentially life-changing event you will ever face. The decisions you make regarding your representation could determine the outcome of your case. By the very nature of the military court system, many of the free military defense attorneys are young, inexperienced and systematically plead their clients guilty, thus helping the military conviction rate stay above 90%. In addition, the military only details you an attorney after charges have been preferred against you.
You would not bring a knife to a gunfight or send in an amateur to fight Floyd Mayweather – and expect to win. If you care about your future, retain an experienced military defense attorney with the global resources required to level the playing field.
A civilian military attorney isn’t required to have military experience OR have spent time in the JAG Corps in order to practice law in the military. Of course, that doesn’t stop these lawyers from advertising their services to military members in the first place. All of Bilecki & Tipon’s attorneys have extensive experience in criminal defense and trying cases to verdict. Mr. Bilecki served nearly eight years in the Army JAG Corps and was a Major when he left Active Duty. Mr. Tipon was a prior Marine who left the Marine Corps as a Major after 10 years. They have since dedicated their professional lives to defending service members facing serious court martial charges and have over 30 years combined experience trying cases.
Be wary of attorneys with no military experience as either a Senior Defense Counsel or Area Defense Counsel. Without this experience and military cultural understanding, these attorneys will struggle to represent you.
Some former prosecutors have significant courtroom experience and high conviction rates. Unfortunately, a prosecutor isn’t accustomed to having the deck stacked against him. They’re more accustomed to running downhill, having both near-unlimited resources at their disposal and well-trained law enforcement agents that provide expert testimony in court.
However, when that same prosecutor crosses over and defends those accused of crimes, his or her trial skills are thoroughly tested. Now he or she has:
- No regiment of law enforcement agents willing to pursue every lead
- No access to the attorneys in the SJA’s office
- No team of paralegals
- No pool of unlimited resources
The former prosecutor will now have to overcome the “defense credibility deficit” and perhaps most importantly, he or she will need to relate to and understand their client. Typically, this is a difficult transition to make and one that’s rarely successful. The attorneys of Bilecki & Tipon are not former career prosecutors, but rather career court martial lawyers who are dedicated to defending military service members accused of crimes.
Probably not, unless he or she has ample recent experience defending service members.
Many retired Colonels, Navy Captains, and former Military Judges open brick-and-mortar legal offices near a military installation and offer their services to military members to supplement their retirement income. Because of the nature of the JAG Corps, these officers typically will not have significant experience defending service members in the last decade or two of their military career. A prior military judge will likely have spent the last decade sentencing service members to prison and collecting a paycheck from the government, not defending service members against it. As the old saying goes, a tiger doesn’t change his stripes.
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. As they become more senior in rank, they essentially become managers or advisors, no longer battling in courtroom trenches. Being out of the courtroom for any significant time can be disastrous; as the law is constantly changing and trial advocacy is a skill that must be kept sharp. Moreover, a retired Military Judge or 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 Military Judge, Colonel or Navy Captains to defend you.
Don’t believe for a second that cooperating with law enforcement will make your life any easier. CID, OSI, and NCIS agents routinely tell suspects that if they give a statement and “play ball,” then no charges will be preferred against them. This is a lie and a common technique used by deceptive law enforcement agents. CID or NCIS agents aren’t interrogating you to help you out, they’re trying to close the case and get you convicted. 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 will remain silent.
- You want to speak with an attorney immediately.
- You will not consent to any searches and seizures.
If law enforcement agents keep trying to get you to talk, say nothing. Some clients report that despite their insistence to speak with a lawyer before further questioning, CID agents pressed them to waive that right. Some agents tell suspects that a lawyer will make matters worse and that they, the agents, are the only ones who can help them. They may try to have someone else speak with you and then record your comments.
These are all lies and tricks. Refusing to speak with law enforcement cannot be used against you at trial. Don’t panic and don’t allow law enforcement agents to bait you into breaking your silence.
They already think you are guilty.
A “guilty before proven innocent” mentality runs rampant in the military. Just being investigated is cause enough to presume you’re guilty of something. Your first reaction will be to try and explain your side of the story. This will only tighten the noose further. If questioned by your command or law enforcement, immediately invoke your right to remain silent and seek private legal counsel.
Absolutely, it just makes our job harder.
If you’ve already confessed to a crime but now wish to plead not guilty in court, then you’re free to do so. You should know however that these cases are brutal court battles. Don’t automatically expect the free attorney you get in the JAG Corps to be up to the task of winning a “ confession ” case. He or she will likely tell you to just plead guilty and get it over with. The Bilecki & Tipon team can and will fight for you if you’ve confessed. But you need to acknowledge the difficulty of your case. Hiring a relentless defense team is really your only option at this point.
No, but we may be able to suppress your statement.
Before questioning or interrogating service members in custody, or before asking potentially incriminating questions, law enforcement agents and commanders are required to advise the service members of their rights. If law enforcement agents or your command improperly question a military member without first giving that person Article 31 warning, a military defense lawyer could file a motion to suppress any statement given by the suspect.
The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution and UCMJ guarantees you freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. If law enforcement violates your rights by conducting an illegal search and seizure, the evidence obtained in that search cannot be used against you.
If 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 documents. Look closely at anything that you sign and demand a copy of it immediately. They may search without authorization, but at least you haven’t given your consent to the search. If you consent to a search and law enforcement agents find evidence of a crime, it’s unlikely that a military court will find that the agents violated your rights.
Anywhere from 60 days to well over a year
It’s impossible to tell just how long your case could last. It could be over in a couple of months, with no charges preferred against you, or you could be charged well over a year after the supposed crime occurred. Because the charging decision could be made at any minute, it’s imperative that you keep your lawyer prepared and ready to fight for you at a moment’s notice.
We know how much you’d like to see these charges simply disappear. But patience and persistence are the name of the game when it comes to trial preparation. What we can tell you is that, at least according to our own experiences, the longer it takes to bring charges to court, the more likely it is that you could avoid the charges.
The law enforcement agents that brought you in for questioning aren’t fools. They’re experienced and extremely capable individuals that are adept at catching you in lies and identifying motivations that could have led you to commit the crime. They will do and say anything to make you feel comfortable and relaxed, but as soon as they have what they need for a conviction, they’ll throw you to the wolves and move on to the next case.
You likely won’t outsmart them. It’s next to impossible to convince them. The only way you’ll beat them is to retain a defense team that knows the game as well as they do. Play it smart and contact the court martial lawyers at Bilecki & Tipon LLLC as soon as you realize you’re under investigation by the military.
With the country’s best DNA and forensic experts, among other things.
When it comes to sex assault crimes, the defense’s goal is to take the prosecution’s current DNA evidence and turn it on its head, using it to our advantage. What the prosecution may claim is rock solid evidence-your DNA-may actually be used to exonerate you. We’re capable of hiring our own DNA experts to review and explain the evidence against you and to perform our own tests on evidence found at the crime scene.
Even if DNA evidence is conclusively your own, which can work to convince the jury that the sex was in fact consensual, either by going over phone forensics, speaking with witnesses, and cross-examining the victim to catch him or her in the act of a lie. We can also use the forensic evidence that was collected to paint a picture of what actually happened in your case, not just what the witnesses testify to.
Unfortunately, the answer is no.
Facts are essential for winning court martial cases. But the two sides involved in a court martial-the defense and the prosecution-are only interested in those facts when they benefit one side or another. That means that you could have all of the facts in your favor, and still lose a case because your defense team didn’t do enough to convince a jury of their merit in court.
When you realize that your defense can rest solely on your military attorney’s ability to see through the prosecution’s spin on the facts and catch a lying witness in the act during an aggressive cross-examination, then you’ll see exactly why so many service members go to such great lengths to retain the Bilecki & Tipon team in court.
No, but it can quickly turn into one if you’re not careful.
“Drunk sex” isn’t necessarily considered a crime under the UCMJ, but what it does lead to is constant accusations of non-consensual sex by one party or another. Bilecki & Tipon has defended countless cases just like this, where one individual seeks to throw another under the bus in order to receive some form of benefit, whether it’s relocation to a base of their choice, financial compensation for purported military rape trauma, or an honorable discharge from the military.
Don’t be fooled-your case is serious and it’s NOT going away. You could be tried for sexual assault and sentenced to years of incarceration, as well as a dishonorable discharge that will haunt you the rest of your life. If you’re being charged with sexual assault that came about through a night of drinking, you need the support of the absolute best court martial defense team you can find.
It’s not a crime to have sex while drinking alcohol, but it is when the person can’t consent. It’s not uncommon for people to accuse other people of sexual assault because they had one or two drinks and had sex they wish they hadn’t. Instead of taking responsibility, they blame it on alcohol and it turns into a court martial.
Yes, and they’re causing the most harm to their clients
Recent years has seen a large influx of civilian lawyers wander into the justice system. More often than not these are former military JAG Corp officers who haven’t tried cases in years orhave very little experience. In other instances, these individuals have never even been in the military and are just looking for a niche market to offer their services to. Unfortunately for the military service member, it’s very difficult to tell who’s truly experienced in defending service members and who is just winging it to make ends meet.
Before you hire a lawyer, you need to ask how many defense cases they’ve tried in court as lead defense attorney. More often than not their answer will be “enough” or “maybe a dozen or two.” Don’t be fooled-these are LOW numbers, and if you hire them, they simply may not be able to protect you against a zealous prosecutorial team.
We fight back.
You’ll hear us tell you that the odds are not in your favor; that the deck is stacked against you; that under the current culture and conditions in the military, it’s an uphill battle making it out of court unscathed. The JAG Corps free defense attorneys are often overworked, inexperienced, and at the end of the day, may not have what it takes to secure a not-guilty verdict for one of their clients. As for other civilian law firms, they often have no military experience to speak of, or haven’t practiced law in years since they left the JAG Corps.
We believe in fighting back. We believe that military service members deserve true advocacy. We limit our client list and focus solely on helping service members that are in the most need. For all of the reasons above, we’ve become one of the most effective and well respected civilian defense attorneys defending service members today, both in the Pacific Rim and around the world.
Civilian military defense attorneys get more done by staying outside the system.
Successful military defense attorneys get to where they are because they let nothing get between them and their clients. If a defense attorney has conflicting duties, such as a duty to his commanding officer as well as his client, then it becomes muchmore difficult to properly defend service members in court.
In the best case scenario, you have a team of defense attorneys that have spent time in the military, but have left it to pursue their own private law practice. This is the case of Bilecki & Tipon LLLC. We combine the highly effective practices of an independent, civilian law firm with years of military service, both in the courtroom and on the battlefield.