Bilecki & Tipon Court Martial FAQ

Have questions? We’ve got your answers right here on our FAQ page

Q: Experienced military defense lawyers are expensive. Can I even afford one?

A: Depending on what you stand to lose, an experienced lawyer can actually SAVE you money

You have access to a free lawyer under the constitution, and there are any number of discount law firms that will take your case. So when you see a more experienced lawyer offering their services at a higher cost, it’s easy to think that you could never afford them. We believe that this misconception has cost service members more over the long run than they could ever realize.

Consider your future when you make a decision about your defense lawyer. If found guilty, you could face incarceration, heavy fines, and a dishonorable discharge, ALL of which can end careers or land you on the sexual offender registry list. Our clients understand that they’re paying for an INVESTMENT that will save them money over the long term. In many cases, they cannot afford to be found guilty, and will do whatever it takes to get an edge in court.

Q: I’m guilty of the crime I’m being charged with. Can I still fight it in court?

A: Yes, and we’re willing to work with you.

Bilecki & Tipon isn’t in the business of judging our clients. Accused service members, whether guilty or innocent, face an uphill battle going into their court martial. Our mission is to help service members by leveling the playing field. Even if you’re guilty, you deserve a fair shot at your trial. If a jury finds you not guilty of the allegations against you, then it should be the prosecution that loses sleep at night, not you.

A court martial is about advocacy, and thinking that a jury trial is actually about discovering the truth is simply naïve. If you’re guilty but have decided to plead not guilty in court, then we’re willing to work with you to secure the most positive outcome possible for your case.

Q: I’m a suspect in a crime and I’ve been questioned by law enforcement. When should I contact a lawyer?

A: Hours ago. Contact a lawyer as soon as you discover you’re being investigated.

The longer you go without a lawyer, the more likely you’ll accidently say something that you’re going to regret later on. If you’ve been interrogated by law enforcement, chances are you’re the LEAD suspect in their case. You may think you’re proving your innocence by helping them and answering their questions, but you’re actually helping them convict you of a crime. Trust us, they already think you’re guilty, so the only person you’re fooling is yourself. DO NOT help them in any way and contact a lawyer the first chance you get.

Q: If I take only the defense lawyer detailed to me by the military, what are the odds I’ll be found not guilty in court?

A: Considering that the military has a 90% conviction rate, the odds aren’t good.

Military-detailed defense counsels are on the majority of court martial cases where civilian defense counsels aren’t present, and the conviction rate of these cases is at 90% or higher. That percentage speaks for itself.

Can you win a case with a detailed defense lawyer? Yes. And if you don’t stand to lose much with a guilty verdict, this may be your best bet. But if you’re in the thick of a sexual assault charge or some other case where the sentencing is extremely harsh, electing to use only a military-detailed defense counsel could be a decision you’ll regret for the rest of your life.

Q: I’ve seen plenty of civilian defense attorneys specializing in court martial law. Have they all been in the military?

A: No, and we wouldn’t recommend one that hasn’t been in your shoes.

Anyone can graduate from law school and immediately claim they’re a court martial lawyer. There’s no rule saying you had to serve in the JAG Corps to defend service members in a court martial setting. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you thoroughly research a defense lawyer before hiring him or her. Any lawyer that hasn’t served in the military will have zero understanding of military culture, the command structure, and the UCMJ. This puts you at an immediate disadvantage when you walk into court. In fact, you’re likely no better off than if you had elected to only be defended by your military-detailed defense counsel.

Q: I’ve noticed a few former prosecutors that are now military defense lawyers. Surely they’d understand how to beat the prosecution at their own game?

A: They can be effective, but it largely depends on how many years they worked as a prosecutor.

We know a handful of former prosecutors that became defense lawyers, and these individuals know their way around a court martial. But one of the major hurdles confronting these former prosecutors is that they just aren’t prepared for how strenuous and chaotic the defense can be.

During their time as prosecutors, these legal experts may pick up some bad habits. This is because they receive everything they need, right when they need it. Everything from paralegal support, to additional prosecutors, to high-quality forensic testing, is all at their fingertips. This near-limitless pool of resources doesn’t transfer with them when they become defense lawyers. This can slow them down and frustrate them, and puts them at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to a defense lawyer that has performed in this area from the start.

It’s also a mindset. These former prosecutors are used to putting people in prison, not trying to get them out. They may also have lingering biases that they take out on you, which alone could be a game breaker.

Q: Should I consider hiring a former Military Judge to defend me in court?

A: If you were hand-selecting a baseball team, you probably wouldn’t pick an umpire to bat cleanup.

Most military judges spend their careers convicting service members and handing down tough sentences. They’re also still getting military retirement pay from the service. How loyal are they really to your cause? Is their passion really defending service members, or is this just a way to supplement their O-6 retirement?

A former Military Judge, Colonel, or Navy Captain will have experience and could certainly assist you with your defense. The major issue here is the length of time since this individual has been in the trenches defending those accused of crimes in a courtroom. It isn’t uncommon for a prior Military Judge to have a very large gap in their careers where they never set foot into a courtroom actually trying cases. By the time they retire and decide to defend service members full time, they’re very rusty and may never gain their old skills back.

Always ask how long it’s been since they’ve actually tried a case as well as how many cases they’ve recently taken to verdict and won. The last thing you want is a defense lawyer that spent the last 10 plus years handing down long prison sentences. You want a court martial lawyer with a history of keeping people out of prison, not putting them in.

Q: If I cooperate with law enforcement, will it demonstrate to them that I’m innocent?

A: No. They already think you’re guilty and they WILL use what you say against you in court.

If we could recommend one thing to service members suspected of a military crime, it would be this: never, under any circumstances, cooperate with law enforcement. Even if they bring you in under the pretense of “answering a few questions about a case,” you should immediately request the service of a lawyer and say nothing else.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “well, that would make me look very guilty, to request a lawyer right away.” The truth is law enforcement likely already thinks you’re guilty. And the longer you spend talking about the case, the more likely they can catch you in a lie or contradiction. These are trained interrogators that know exactly how to twist your words in their favor. If you cooperate with them there is a good chance you’ll regret it when your court date arrives.

Q: I confessed while I was being interrogated. But now I want to plead not guilty. Do I stand a chance in court?

A: Yes, but you’ll need to go all out to win it.

Cases involving a confession can be won. We’ve taken on such cases before and secured victories for our clients. Our recommendation is that if you’ve confessed, immediately stop discussing the case with law enforcement, and contact Bilecki & Tipon as soon as possible. When it comes to confession cases, you have no other option than to hire a very experienced legal team. Few defense counsels detailed to you by the military are going to want to fight your case in court. That’s because these kinds of cases involve a large amount of research into the case and the interrogation methods used. Will it be a tough fight to win? Yes, but not impossible.

Q: I can’t remember whether or not I was read my Miranda rights. Can we use this to omit my confession in court?

A: Possibly, if we can prove law enforcement did not properly advise you of your rights.

It doesn’t happen often, but from time to time law enforcement will simply forget to read you your rights or do it improperly. If this is the case, and you say something in their custody that they later try to use as evidence in court, then we can file motions to suppress those statements so they cannot be used against you.

Q: I don’t want give law enforcement permission to search my home or belongings, but I’m also worried I’ll be seen as guilty if I don’t. What should I do?

A: Do not give law enforcement consent to search your home or belongings.

You are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures by the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Unless the military has enough evidence to secure a search warrant, they should never be able to access your home or belongings. Giving them permission to do so creates more problems than it solves, and there’s a very good chance that law enforcement could “misplace” exculpatory evidence, plant evidence, or use seemingly innocuous evidence against you, all in a bid to secure an easy conviction in court.

Read everything that law enforcement gives you before you sign it, and if possible, have a lawyer present to read ALL documentation beforehand. Law enforcement has been known to trick service members into agreeing to a search and the evidence found in such searches can and will be used against you in court.

Q: How long do most military investigations last?

A: Anywhere from two months to a year, and sometimes even longer

We can’t calculate how long an investigation will last, but we do know it takes about two months to a year on average for a case to make its way to charges getting preferred. The government could spend many months preparing evidence and testimony against you, only to realize that there just isn’t enough to convict you in court. Alternatively they could be so certain of a conviction that they’ll have charges preferred against you within a few short weeks of you realizing that you’re a suspect.

What’s important is that you’re prepared for your court date regardless of how long it takes the prosecution to prepare their case. That’s why it’s critical to retain a defense team that is ready to defend you at a moment’s notice in court.

Q: Can I outsmart CID, NCIS, and OSI during my interrogation?

A: Maybe, but you’d be wise to let your lawyer handle it.

Never underestimate the military’s law enforcement, especially if you’re being questioned by them. These men and women are highly trained interrogators that work together to trap you in your own words. Yes, you can discuss a case without incriminating yourself. But why would you want to tempt fate? Contact a lawyer as soon as you realize you’re a suspect in a court martial case and avoid this issue entirely.

Q: My DNA is being used as evidence. Am I as good as convicted?

A: No.

DNA evidence is very effective in court, but it can backfire on the prosecution if they use that evidence improperly. Not all DNA tests are created equal, and some tests are more effective at positively identifying an individual than others. DNA can even exonerate you. Bilecki & Tipon may decide to refute the test entirely (possibly by bringing in our own DNA expert) or we could simply build our narrative around the DNA evidence. This can be effective in sexual assault cases where consent is a factor.

Q: Is the goal of a court martial to discover the truth?

A: They’re more about advocacy than truth.

Truth is important to a court martial, but only in the sense that both sides use it to advocate for one outcome or another. While your defense team will advocate for you regardless of whether you’re actually guilty or not, the prosecution’s job is to convict you, and they’ll attempt to do it even if you’re innocent. It’s best to look at a court martial not as a vehicle for discovering the truth, but as two sides attempting to secure two very different outcomes.

Q: Does the U.S. Military consider “drunk sex” a crime?

A: It may not be written down anywhere, but the answer is “yes”.

Sexual assault charges have increased in recent years, and they’re the highest-priority targets for the U.S. Government. It’s very easy to find yourself in a situation where you have a few drinks with another service member, go to bed with them, and then a week later discover that they’ve accused you of sexual assault. What you thought was a simple one-night stand becomes a sexual assault charge that could have a dramatic effect on your future.

So while “drunk sex” isn’t a crime per se, the military certainly perceives it as one and it can quickly escalate into a sexual assault charge if the service member you slept with convinces law enforcement that you had sex with her while she was unable to consent due to intoxication. If you find yourself in this kind of situation contact the law firm of Bilecki & Tipon as soon as possible.

Q: I’ve seen plenty of civilian defense lawyers offering to defend me at my court martial. Has the number of lawyers offering such services gone up recently?

A: Yes, and the people that get hurt the most are the service members.

We’ve noticed a lot of civilian attorneys claiming to be court martial defense lawyers in recent years. Of course, they’re entitled to make that claim. The real issue is when they have little to no experience defending service members, and some have never even served in the U.S. Military. This puts them—and their clients—at an extreme disadvantage in court.

Bilecki & Tipon always recommends that service members research their defense attorney and learn everything they can before making a decision. You have too much riding on this trial to leave it up to a novice that either has never served in the military or has only tried a dozen or fewer cases in a court martial setting.

Q: What makes Bilecki & Tipon different from our competition?

A: We’re your last line of defense against a very tough opponent.

Bilecki & Tipon has tried hundreds of court martial cases and has over 30+ years of combined experience in the courtroom. This gives us an unparalleled level of insight into how the military’s prosecution works and what their strategies will be. More importantly, Bilecki & Tipon is passionate about winning and will go to great lengths to secure a positive outcome for our clients. While other law firms may avoid tough cases or plead their clients guilty consistently, Bilecki & Tipon is always ready to step up for our service members and turn an underdog story into a total victory.

Q: Shouldn’t I be considering defense lawyers that are still in the military over a civilian?

A: If the civilian is a veteran with experience in the JAG Corps, he or she is worth considering

We absolutely recommend that your defense lawyer have experience in the U.S. Armed Forces, preferably previously serving as both a defense counsel and senior defense counsel in the JAG Corps. That said, we’d caution against hiring a defense lawyer that has never served in the military. This is because that lawyer doesn’t truly understand the system they’re playing in and this could impede his or her ability to properly defend you in court.

Your best option is to hire a true courtroom gunslinger with prior military defense experience. This allows your lawyer to work independently, without any pressure from other members in the JAG Corps or his or her commanding officer. These individuals still have the insights that a service member has, just without the pressure that his or her actions will impact their career.