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