How Are Rape Cases Handled in the Military?

How Are Rape Cases Handled in the Military?

When a member of the military is accused of committing a sex crime, be it rape or sexual assault, they will be charged under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This differs from civilian criminal proceedings in that servicemembers will be tried before a court martial—and thus, subject to punishment under military law. Many times, the penalties imposed for military sex crimes are harsher than those imposed by state laws.

Last year, the House of Representatives passed a measure to enforce mandatory minimum sentences, including two years of imprisonment and dishonorable discharge, for members of the military who are convicted of rape or sexual assault. Although extremely rare, the strictest penalty that can be imposed for rape in a military setting is death. More common sentences include years or decades in military prison and dishonorable or bad conduct discharge.

How Rape Is Defined in Article 120 of the UCMJ

According to Article 120 of the UCMJ, a servicemember could be charged with rape if they commit a sexual assault by using unlawful force, using force causing or likely to cause death or bodily harm, placing that person in fear that they will be subject to death, bodily harm or kidnapping, rendering that person unconscious, or administering intoxicating drugs.

The potential penalties for rape under military law may include:

  • Death or life imprisonment in military prison
  • Dishonorable discharge or bad conduct discharge
  • Forfeiture of their total pay and allowance

How Sexual Assault Is Defined in Article 120 of the UCMJ

A servicemember could be charged with sexual assault under Article 120 if they commit a sexual act upon another person by placing them in fear, causing bodily harm, making a fraudulent claim that the sexual act serves a professional purpose, or inducing a belief that they are another person. This also applies if the victim was unconscious or unable to consent.

The potential penalties for sexual assault under military law include:

  • Confinement in military prison for 30 years
  • Dishonorable discharge or bad conduct discharge
  • Forfeiture of their total pay and allowance

Consequences of Dishonorable or Bad Conduct Discharge

When you are dishonorably discharged from the military, you are released from duty. You can only be dishonorably discharged if you commit an act that the military has deemed to be reprehensible. Not only will you lose your job in the military, but you may also have trouble finding employment in the civilian sector. You must also forfeit your right to own firearms.

If you are discharged for bad conduct, you are being punished for misconduct. In most cases, it will be accompanied by time in military prison and the requirement that you forfeit your veteran's benefits. As you can see, rape and sexual assault charges are not handled lightly in the military. If you are facing any such charges, you should hire a lawyer immediately.

Discuss Your Military Case with Victor Bakke Today

If you have been charged with rape or sexual assault under Article 120, it is imperative that you act quickly to contact our Honolulu criminal defense lawyer, Victor Bakke. Although you are entitled to free representation from a military lawyer who will be appointed to your case, you also have the right to retain a civilian defense attorney—which is highly recommended.

Unlike an appointed attorney, Mr. Bakke doesn't play by the military's rules. He is an experienced courts martial lawyer who will do whatever it takes to defend you against the lifelong consequences of a military conviction. Over the last two decades, Mr. Bakke has won more than 3,000 criminal cases, many of which involved military crimes.

You can trust that your future will be in good hands with our firm. Contact The Law Office of Victor Bakke, ALC to discuss your case with our team.