The military justice process is the legal process within a military jurisdiction. The military justice process begins with an Unrestricted Report. It will involve witnesses, investigators, commanders, Victim-Witness Assistance Personnel, SARCs and/or SAPR VAs, and lawyers.
Each of the Services offers either a Special Victim’s Counsel or Victim’s Legal Counsel; these lawyers understand the legal process and are detailed to solely represent the victim and provide legal advice and guide victims through the judicial process. Investigators are contacted, and you will be asked to provide a detailed statement of the assault. You can have a SAPR VA or Special Victims’ Counsel/Victims’ Legal Counsel present during the interview.
Investigators are likely to consult with the lawyer representing the alleged offender’s commander. The said commander will consider the outcome of the investigation; seek advice from his/her lawyer, and make a determination on how to move forward. For example, the commander may decide to take the case to an Article 32 Preliminary Hearing – a proceeding to determine if the evidence surrounding the charge or specification warrants a general court-martial.
You may be asked to be a witness in an Article 32 Preliminary Hearing, but you are not required to participate or attend. It is important to know and understand your rights as you go through the military justice process. You may be asked to be interviewed by lawyers, also known as judge advocates. Judge Advocates may be Trial Counsel (commander’s lawyer and the prosecutor) or Defense Counsel (alleged offender’s lawyer). Since December 2013, judge advocates have been mandated to serve as investigating officers for all Article 32 Preliminary Hearings on sexual assault offense charges. Your SARC or VLC/SVC can accompany you and represent you at interviews by investigators, prosecutors, and defense counsel.
Learn about the UCMJ “Accountability” Process.