Becoming a part of our military brings many privileges and honors, but also higher expectations and more responsibilities than a civilian has. One of those responsibilities is that you must adhere to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
Following the UCMJ means not only obeying civilian law, but also additional military requirements that come with serious consequences if you stray.
Like a civilian, after an accusation or charge, you have the right to an attorney. Unlike civilians, your counsel can be a military lawyer or a civilian one.
When you opt for a civilian defense attorney, you have to be incredibly selective. How can you make sure this lawyer understands both the worlds of civilian law and military law?
It’s a lot of pressure to make the right decision. You may even feel like your military career and future is in their hands. So make sure that the attorney you choose possesses the following qualities:
Hands-on military experience. First and foremost, your lawyer needs to understand the brevity of these cases. This means finding a lawyer who has experience in the military, or at least experience handling military defense cases. The more up-to-date the lawyer is (when was the last time he or she handled a military case?) and the more successful your lawyer is (when was the last time he or she won a military case?) the more trust you can put in him or her.
Experience throughout the entire legal process. There are many different potential outcomes in a military case: plea bargains, administrative separation agreements, and full litigation. Ask potential lawyers what experience they have in dealing with each outcome.
While consulting lawyers, it is also important to ask what outcome they expect for your case. Different lawyers may have different opinions. Having a clear picture of what the upcoming process is likely to entail with each lawyer will help you make a better decision.
Reliability. In the military, deadlines are crucial. Make sure your lawyer has the attitude, discipline, and reliability of a member of our military. Your case will go more smoothly when evidence is collected and each step of the process is completed on time. If a lawyer is late getting back to you, or immediately fails to fulfill his or her promises to you, you may want to choose someone else.
Trustworthiness. You may want to keep some of the information you share confidential. Having a lawyer that you trust is crucial to moving forward past this incident.
How do you find a lawyer that is trustworthy? Look at resources like testimonials and reviews to help determine what is it like to work with a lawyer, as well as how clients felt after their cases were settled. Collect references from colleagues and people that you trust. If they have used a civilian lawyer in the past, whom did they choose? Last but not least, you need to go with the choice that you believe is right.
Before deciding, talk to a different civilian lawyers in person or over the phone (many offer free consultations). Ask questions. Use the above qualities to determine whether or not they are right for you, your case, and your desired outcome.
Want to get started by talking to an experienced and serious lawyer with both JAG and civilian experience? Reach out to our office today.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2016), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2016), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2016).