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Bilecki & Tipon Court Martial FAQ

Find Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions Here on Our FAQ Page

Q: How much do experienced court martial defense lawyers cost?

A: Less than the cost of being convicted of a felony in the military.

We’re often asked by service members whether or not it’s even worth it to spend what amounts to the price of a nice car in legal fees. Most service members don’t have that kind of money lying around and they don’t know how they’ll come up with it. So they hire a discount defense lawyer or go with the defense counsel issued by the government, only to lose their case. It could take years, but eventually these service members realize that their conviction was more expensive than they ever could’ve imagined. The lost opportunities, the sex-offender registration, and incarceration have opened their eyes to their mistake.

Not every case calls for an experienced legal team. But you can easily know for sure if it does by asking yourself whether or not you could live with a guilty verdict and all that it comes with. If you can, then a discount lawyer is probably fine. However, if you cannot see yourself in prison, or marked as a sex offender for the rest of your life, then an experienced defense attorney suddenly looks like a bargain.

Q: I committed the crime but still want to fight the charges in court. Do I even have a chance?

A: Yes.

Our job isn’t to judge you. Nor will we automatically tell you to plead guilty for some small chance at a more lenient sentence. Our job is to help you secure a verdict in your favor, regardless of whether you’re guilty, innocent, or a mixture of both.

Some might see this as distasteful, or wrong. But our view of the court system is different from theirs. To us, a court martial is more than just about finding a guilty party. It’s about advocacy, not right and wrong. If the prosecution was too quick to act and made mistakes in court, or they never had enough evidence to convict you in the first place, then you simply shouldn’t have been charged.

We never lose sleep at night over whether or not our clients deserved to be found not guilty. If anyone needs to feel frustrated over it, it’s the prosecution—not the defense team or the service member that is seeking a not-guilty verdict.

Q: When’s the best time to call a defense attorney?

A: As soon as you realize you’re suspected of committing a crime.

The longer you wait, the greater the chances are that the government will have the upper hand in your trial. It gives interrogators more attempts to get you to crack, and law enforcement agents more time to build a case against you. And while they’re sending evidence over to the lab for testing, you’re sitting on your hands expecting them to forget the whole thing ever happened.

Trust us, they will not forget. The faster you act to protect yourself with a defense attorney, the better your chances are for securing a not-guilty verdict.

Q: How big of a difference is there between a military-issued defense counsel and a civilian law firm like Bilecki & Tipon?

A: The difference is night and day.

Imagine having someone as your lead defense counsel that just recently graduated from law school, has never tried a case, and is friends with the prosecutors that are trying to convict you. Then, compare that individual to a law firm like Bilecki & Tipon, which has over 30+ years of combined courtroom experience, hundreds of cases brought to verdict, and access to dozens of highly qualified forensic experts and lab facilities. When we say the difference is night and day, we mean it.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the facts will prove your innocence. They won’t. Only a great defense attorney can do that. And that usually means looking somewhere other than the military’s biased defense attorney roster.

Q: Are civilian attorneys required to spend time in the military before trying court martial cases?

A: No

The truth is that any defense attorney straight out of law school could immediately take on court martial cases if they wanted to. No requirement exists that says you must be a current service member or veteran of the U.S. Military. This makes it much more difficult for service members accused of a crime to properly vet and identify very capable court martial attorneys with a military background.

Our advice is to be very thorough during the research phase of your attorney search. Make sure you ask each and every attorney whether or not they’ve served in the military, as well as how many cases they’ve tried as lead defense counsel in a court martial setting.

Q: Would it be worthwhile to hire a former prosecutor to serve as my defense counsel?

A: They’re experienced in putting people in prison, not keeping them out.

Prosecutors that have served in the JAG Corps may decide to take up defense attorney positions when they retire or resign from the military. On the surface, you’d think that these individuals would have insider knowledge of what it takes to win a case in a court martial setting. While this may be the case for some former prosecutors, what is rarely considered is just how lazy their former job has made them.

Military prosecutors, as it turns out, are given just about everything they could ever want by the U.S. Government. They have dozens of staffers at their disposal, near-infinite government resources to assist them with prosecuting cases, and access to some of the best labs in the world. Over time, this makes them complacent, and yes, even lazy. So when they switch benches and start working defense cases, and suddenly they don’t have this army of support behind them, their job quickly becomes a hassle rather than a challenge to them. We’ve seen it happen on more than one occasion, and the only people that are hurt by it are the accused service members that choose these former prosecutors as their defense counsels.

Q: Would you recommend a defense attorney that’s a retired Military Judge, Navy Captain, or Colonel?

A: It depends on their experience.

These retired service members definitely do offer a level of experience that more junior counsel aren’t privy to. The real problem is discovering whether or not they’ve actually tried and defended cases in the last five, ten, or even twenty years.

Unfortunately, many retired Military Judges, Navy Captains and Colonels are unprepared to handle court cases after leaving the military. Despite having formal legal training and experience on the bench, these individuals may be woefully out of practice by the time they decide to offer their services in retirement. Some could’ve spent a scant year or two trying cases before moving on to some comfortable desk job far away from any court martial trials. Your best bet then is to ask them about their legal history and especially how long it’s been since they tried and won a case in a court martial setting.

In the case of a former military judge, many have spent their careers being part of the problem, not the solution. Often overseeing trials with prosecution friendly rulings and spending their careers sentencing service members to prison, not trying to keep them out. You have to ask yourself, what is their true passion? Is it really defending service members against the same organization they have been serving for over twenty years. Unlikely.

Q: If I cooperate with law enforcement, will they go easy on me, or maybe even drop all charges against me?

A: Extraordinarily unlikely.

Every minute you’re answering law enforcement’s questions is another minute spent digging your own grave. What your interrogators will lead you to believe is that by cooperating with them and sharing your story, you’ll “prove” your innocence to them. This is a lie. What they’re actually doing is attempting to poke holes in your story through intimidation, stress, and mendacity. The longer you’re “cooperating” with law enforcement without a lawyer, the greater the chances are that you’ll crack.

You may be told to take a polygraph test, or to go over your story again and again. They’ll say that if you request a lawyer, it will make you look guilty, and then they’ll really pursue charges. The truth is that they don’t believe you, they already think you’re guilty, and they’re at that very moment collecting evidence against you. Don’t be fooled. Keep quite and request a lawyer as soon as you find yourself in this position.

Q: Will law enforcement think I’m guilty if I don’t cooperate?

A: To law enforcement, you’re as good as guilty already.

Law enforcement has taken you into custody because you’re their lead suspect. Unless you have an air-tight alibi or evidence points them to another person, they’re going to think you committed the crime. So by cooperating with law enforcement and talking about the crime, you’re giving them ammunition to use against you in court. For this reason alone we implore all service members accused of a crime to never talk to law enforcement without a lawyer present.

Q: Is there any hope for a not-guilty verdict if I already confessed during my interrogation?

A: Yes there is.

Confessing to the crime during an interrogation won’t automatically make you guilty in a court of law. However, it does make your case more difficult to win. Winning these cases often involves undermining the confession itself by questioning the types of interrogation methods used, among other objectives. It can be done, but not many defense attorneys can pull it off. If you’ve confessed to a crime, but want to plead not guilty in court, make sure you have a lawyer that you trust can get the job done.

Q: If law enforcement forgot to read me my rights, am I off the hook?

A: Not exactly.

A victory is far from assured even if law enforcement botches your Miranda rights. That said, if you’ve made a confession to law enforcement, and we can prove that they did not properly advise you of your rights, then it’s possible to have that confession thrown out. The same goes for all other statements that you made while in the custody of law enforcement.

Q: I’ve been asked by law enforcement for permission to search my belongings. Do I give it to them?

A: No!

Never give law enforcement permission to search your belongings, vehicle, home, or anything else. If they have reasonable cause they can get a warrant. Until then they need to be slowed down as long as possible, even if you have nothing to hide. Even if you’re completely innocent of the crime, the reality is you’re being investigated anyway, which likely means you’re at the top of their list of possible suspects. Everything you can do to slow down their case against you can be beneficial. Once evidence is in law enforcement’s hands – even exculpatory evidence – it may be lost forever.

If you’ve been asked by law enforcement for permission to search your possessions, tell them no and that you’d like to speak with a lawyer. Sign nothing unless it’s in the presence of your lawyer, or until you’ve thoroughly read it. Documents can hide statements that grant permission for a search to be conducted.

Q: How long on average do court martial cases last?

A: Anywhere from two months to two years and even longer.

Court cases can take months or even years to prepare, and there may be a backlog of cases that need to be tried in court prior to your case being taken on. How long it takes will depend on the amount and the quality of evidence and testimony that the government has against you, among other factors. As time goes by the government may even decide to drop the case entirely, although you should never count on that happening. The government could act at any moment, and without an attorney on retainer, you may be caught off guard and left scrambling to prepare a solid court defense.

Q: Could I outsmart CID, NCIS, or OSI law enforcement agents?

A: Not a chance.

This isn’t the movies. The law enforcement agents that you’re up against have years of experience and training. They’re going to see through any lies you come up with. It may take days or even weeks of interrogation, but eventually you’re going to say something that contradicts an earlier statement. They’ll then use that statement in court to secure a conviction.

Q: DNA evidence was supposedly found and law enforcement is telling me that I’ll be convicted with it. How worried should I be?

A: Don’t be worried quite yet.

DNA evidence can and does win court cases. But there’s plenty that the defense can do to undermine the government’s evidence against you. It may require looking into the kind of DNA test that was performed, and whether or not those results can guarantee a perfect match. Another option that experienced defense teams have at their disposal is to counter the government’s DNA specialist with a DNA specialist of their own. In some instances, the DNA evidence can be easily worked around by attacking the case from another angle.

To summarize, it’s possible to get out from under the DNA evidence that the government has, regardless of how many times they tell you that it’s a game changer.

Q: Is finding the truth the most important part of a court martial?

A: No.

Discovering the truth of a crime isn’t the most pressing concern of a court martial. The prosecution will use the facts of a case to convict you. Meanwhile, your defense team will use those very same facts to help secure your innocence. Both sides use the facts and the truth to advocate for a certain outcome in court.

This has implications that many service members aren’t prepared for when their trial begins. For instance, a service member that actually committed the crime could still secure a not-guilty verdict in court with a strong defense team. Alternatively, someone that’s not guilty could still be convicted of a crime if the defense team makes too many mistakes. The most important thing you can do regardless of whether you’re guilty or not is to find a defense attorney that’s very experienced with court martial cases.

Q: Is it a crime to get drunk and have sex with another service member?

A: No, but it could lead to a sexual assault charge if you’re not careful.

The sexual assault crackdown is still going strong in every branch of the military, and with incentives such as expedited transfers and honorable discharges from the military, it can be very easy for a partner you barely know to claim that you raped them while they were intoxicated. These charges are taken very seriously by the U.S. Government and even if it was consensual, you could still be found guilty in your court martial hearing.

Q: I heard that it’s more common than ever to see civilian defense attorneys without experience advocating for service members in court. Is this true?

A: Yes, and the people that are harmed the most by it are other service members.

It’s very likely that during your search for a court martial lawyer you’ll run across a number of veterans that have left the JAG Corps to run their own law firm and defend service members in court martial cases. These individuals are often well-meaning, but many have almost no experience to speak of. Their days in the JAG Corps were likely short lived, and it’s very possible they haven’t tried a case in years.

It’s important to ask every attorney you speak with how many cases they’ve tried as lead defense counsel. This will give you a good idea of their experience and ability, which is something you’ll want to know before going into your trial!

Q: What makes Bilecki & Tipon LLLC stand out from the other court martial law firms out there?

A: We fight back.

Bilecki & Tipon has a passion for winning and believes that all service members deserve a fighting chance in court. Our law firm is managed by military veterans and we have the utmost respect for the men and women serving in the military today. We’ve tried hundreds of court martial cases and our combined experience has no comparison anywhere in the Pacific Rim where we operate.

Lastly, we never systematically plead our clients guilty, even if most other trial lawyer thinks it’s wise to do so. You deserve better than that. You deserve a law firm that treats you with respect and dignity. That’s our difference. That’s why we fight.

Q: Should I even consider hiring a civilian defense counsel to defend me in court?

A: Yes

You may think that hiring a civilian to defend you in your court martial case is a bad idea. You’re wondering, understandably, whether they have a true understanding of the UCMJ, or whether they really know what you’re going through. As military veterans that are now serving our clients as civilians, we respect those questions, and we can say without hesitation that choosing a civilian attorney to defend you in court is the only way to go.

Civilian defense counsels have no commanding officer to report to, which relieves pressure on the defense counsel to act in a certain way. They also have more freedom to act in your best interests, without having to worry about your commanding officer. And we’re free from any intimidation by other JAG Corps members, as well as any concerns to not rock the JAG Corps boat.