MJA understands the tireless work, sacrifice, and commitment Drill Instructors / Sergeants and their families devote to one of our nation’s most important responsibilities—transforming everyday civilians into United States Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines.
MJA has successfully defended Drill Instructors/Sergeants and Cadre across the military branches in some of the most complex and serious misconduct and recruit abuse cases in the nation. Contact one of our military defense lawyers today to learn more.
Despite their incredible sacrifices and hard work, Drill Instructors/Sergeants across the services are increasingly becoming the subject of investigation, nonjudicial punishment, and court-martial prosecution due to allegations of misconduct in the training environment. Common charges that Drill Instructors/Sergeants must defend against include:
Article 93a, UCMJ, effective January 1, 2019, specifically criminalizes abuses by those in training leadership positions. It prohibits those in special positions of trust, like Drill Instructors/Sergeants or Cadre, from engaging in sexual activity with a military recruit, trainee, cadet, midshipman, or officer candidate. Importantly, Article 93a specifically states that consent is not a defense.
The individual service branches have separate punitive orders/directives also dealing with this type of conduct, violations of which can be charged under Article 92, UCMJ. For example, Army Directive 2016-17 prohibits inappropriate relationships and activities between trainers and trainees during entry-level training.
Drill Instructor/Sergeant cases are unique. They often involve the testimony of dozens of recruits who are new to the military and overwhelmed by the training environment. Their statements are often unreliable and contradictory. Typically, military counsel will not be assigned to represent a service member until months after the alleged incident took place, after charges have been preferred. By this time, key witnesses are often scattered throughout the United States and abroad, making communication difficult.
Pretrial investigation is critical to successfully defending allegations in the recruit/trainee context. Pretrial interviews lock witnesses into their testimony and can be used at trial for lines of impeachment, to show a motive to fabricate, or to demonstrate inconsistencies in the government’s evidence. Establishing a clear timeline and presenting good military character evidence provide additional avenues to defend against the charges.
With any defense, however, winning at court-martial is ultimately about creating reasonable doubt by telling a better story than the government. But telling a better story doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work, investigation, and experience.
Know Your Rights
Drill Instructors/Sergeants and Cadre are particularly vulnerable during criminal investigations. Given their outstanding military service record, there is a strong temptation for Drill Instructors/Sergeants to “cooperate” with law enforcement by providing a statement (written or verbal) or giving consent to a search. This is a mistake. “Cooperating” with law enforcement doesn’t make you appear innocent–it just makes the government’s case against you stronger.
Right to remain silent. Service members have an absolute right to remain silent if questioned about a suspected UCMJ violation. Providing a statement to law enforcement almost never helps and may result in additional charges. If the statement you make is different from that of the alleged victim, you may be charged with making a false official statement or obstruction of justice. In some cases, the underlying allegations go away entirely and the Drill Instructor/Sergeant is left with the alleged false statements as the only surviving charges.
Right to refuse consent. There is also no obligation to consent to any search or seizure of your person or property. If investigators have probable cause to believe that there is evidence of a crime in a certain location, they must obtain an authorization from your commander before conducting a search. Absent probable cause, the only way law enforcement can search or seize your property is with your consent. Providing consent gives law enforcement the right to search your phone, vehicle, residence, or person for evidence which they intend to use against you. Don’t be fooled.
Right to counsel. Service members suspected of a crime have the absolute right to consult with an attorney, military or civilian, before waiving their rights. It is crucial to consult with an attorney if you are suspected of a crime. The decisions you make while under investigation will directly impact your likelihood for success at trial. Remember that no matter the specific legal circumstances you are facing, you are entitled to legal counsel and should utilize it.
MJA has unparalleled experience defending Drill Instructors, Drill Sergeants, and Cadre facing courts-martial, administrative separations, chapter boards, NJP/Article 15 punishment, relief-for-cause, suspension/removal from duty, and adverse administrative actions.
While on active duty, our attorneys served as military defense attorneys, prosecutors, and legal advisors in dozens of Marine Corps Drill Instructor misconduct cases. We now use this experience to defend Drill Instructors, Drill Sergeants, and Cadre throughout the United States facing allegations of misconduct and recruit abuse. MJA knows how to win and stands ready to fight for your career and reputation today.
Contact MJA Today
If you are a Drill Instructor/Sergeant or Cadre under investigation or facing court-martial or administrative action, it is critical that you retain the very best military defense lawyer to protect yourself and your career. Contact one of our military justice attorneys today to learn more.