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Military sexual assault charges can have serious consequences

There's been increasing attention on sexual assault in the military in recent years. The Department of Defense has taken steps to increase enforcement of the Uniform Code of Military Justice's Article 120, which deals with sexual assault and to make it easier for people to report sexual assault crimes.

Some members of Congress are also working to pass legislation that would take the investigations and decisions about whether to charge a person with a criminal offense out of the hands of people in the military chain of command. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been leading the fight for such reforms.

Active military service members charged with sexual assault can face court martial. Those convicted of sexual assault can be subject to punishments including dishonorable discharge and military prison time. Under military law, those convicted of rape can face life in prison and or potentially even execution. Further, any service member convicted of a sex crime is required to register as a sex offender.

It's essential for service members to understand how sexual assault is defined under Article 120. It includes a sexual act that involves any of the following:

-- Infliction of bodily harm-- Infliction of fear or threat-- The use of false pretenses-- A person who is unable to give consent

The most serious of these is the use of fear or force. This can carry a charge of aggravated sexual assault. So can threatening sexual violence, whether the violence occurred or not.

If you are a service member facing a charge of sexual assault or rape, it's essential to take it seriously even if you believe the whole thing was a misunderstanding. You don't have to use a military lawyer to present your case. Because of the large number of military bases in our area, a number of civilian attorneys in Kentucky and Tennessee have experience defending clients in military courts and are well-versed in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Source: FindLaw, "Military Sexual Assault: The Basics," accessed Feb. 24, 2016

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Michael J. Thompson, Attorney at Law

16360 Fort Campbell Blvd.
Oak Grove, KY 42262
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