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Facing a military court-martial? What role does your family play in the process?

Criminal defense lawyer, Michael Waddington, discusses what you should do if you or a loved one are wrongly accused of sexual assault or rape.

Supporting a Family Member Through Military Criminal Defense: A Comprehensive Guide

Gonzalez & Waddington, Attorneys at Law

When a family member faces military criminal charges, the situation can be overwhelming and distressing. The role of the family in these challenging times is crucial, not only for emotional support but also as a part of the defense strategy. This guide, provided by the experienced team at Gonzalez & Waddington, Attorneys at Law, will offer insights and advice on how families can navigate this difficult journey.

Understanding the Military Justice System Before delving into the support role, it’s important to understand how the military justice system differs from the civilian system. Military criminal cases are governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which outlines specific offenses and procedures unique to military personnel. The system is designed to maintain discipline and order within the military ranks, but it can be complex and intimidating for those unfamiliar with it.

The Emotional Impact of Military Criminal Charges The emotional toll on the family of someone accused of a military crime can be significant. Feelings of confusion, anger, and fear are common. It’s vital for families to find support, whether through counseling, support groups, or trusted friends. Maintaining emotional stability is key to providing effective support for the accused.

The Role of Family in Legal Defense Families can play an active role in the court martial defense process. This includes:

  • Gathering Evidence: Families often have access to personal documents, electronic devices, and other items that might be crucial for the defense.
  • Witness Identification: Family members may help identify potential witnesses who can provide testimony or character references.
  • Emotional Support: The accused will benefit from a strong support system to help maintain their morale and resilience.

Choosing the Right Defense Attorney Selecting a skilled military criminal defense attorney is one of the most critical steps. Gonzalez & Waddington, Attorneys at Law, have a history of robust defense in military cases. An experienced attorney will understand the nuances of military law and be able to guide the family through the process.

Preparing for Trial As the trial approaches, families should work closely with their military defense attorney to understand the proceedings. This includes:

  • Understanding Charges and Potential Outcomes: Knowing the specifics of the charges and possible consequences can help families prepare for various scenarios.
  • Participating in Strategy Meetings: Active involvement in planning the defense strategy can be beneficial.

Support During the Trial The trial period is often the most stressful. Family members should:

  • Be Present in Court: Showing solidarity and support can have a positive impact on the proceedings.
  • Manage Public Statements: It’s important to manage communications with the media or on social media carefully, as public statements can affect the case.

Dealing with the Outcome Regardless of the trial’s outcome, the role of the family is crucial. They should be prepared to provide emotional support and, if necessary, help with the transition back to civilian life or deal with incarceration.

Long-Term Support and Healing The end of a trial does not mark the end of the journey. Families may need to deal with long-term effects, including psychological impacts and reputation management.

Conclusion The role of a family in a military criminal defense case is multifaceted and crucial. By understanding the military justice system, providing emotional support, actively participating in the defense process, and choosing the right attorney, families can make a significant difference in the outcome of your military court martial case.

Below is a transcript of the video.

My name is Michael Waddington, and I’m a criminal defense attorney in this video. I want to talk about parents and family’s role in a criminal defense case. Many of the people that represent are in the military, and their families unify and help them.

They’re there to help them financially at times, or they’re there to support them, support them in terms of giving them hope, encouragement, and keeping them in the fight because that’s what this will be if you’re facing criminal charges in the military. But if you’re a service member and your family is involved in your case, I just want to give you some advice and caution. Your family, particularly your parents or your loved ones, are often suffering more than you.
You might not understand that until you become a parent, but a mother or father is going through a court martial involving their son or an investigation where severe allegations are on the line.

The parents are undergoing tremendous amounts of stress, and you need to understand that and not make their situation worse. So, I know many parents will jump in and help out their Children, family members, or loved ones. And a lot of times, the service member takes that for granted. And so I’m advising you not to take that for granted. Let them know you’re grateful. Help out with the fees if you can. A lot of times, I’ve seen people demanding their mother or dad pay the fees, and they’re out blowing the money on alcohol vacations and trips pending the court-martial.

Now, your parents might not care. But I tell you, as a father of two grown Children, one of whom served six years in the military. My son, if you’re respectful and appreciate what they’re doing without stressing them out, that’ll go a long way. And that leads me to the next point: not telling them what’s happening is not an option. If you care about them. We’ve had many cases where the son or daughter tries to go through a military proceeding and doesn’t tell their parents until it’s too late or the person gets convicted. They try to do it independently, and then the parents are heartbroken, and they call us asking us how we appeal this case. And your odds of winning an appeal are not very good. So get your family involved early.

Let them know the basics. Don’t discuss the details and facts of the case. But you know, keep them apprised of the procedural dates and things that are going on so that they can be there to support you because it’s essential, in my opinion, to have family members there to support you. Because if you win, that’s great. If you get convicted of anything, you’re going to need those family members to help you get back on your feet and to help support you, at least emotionally, in getting back on your feet and to love you as their family member or son or daughter and most good parents or family members will be there for you.

They might disapprove of what misconduct you may or may not have gotten into, but they want to be there to support you. Most of the people we deal with their families will do anything to help their child, whether guilty or not because they love them and want to do whatever they can to help that person out. So keep that in mind and don’t be afraid of, oh, I don’t want to shame my parents. You have to let them know what’s going on. Ok? I’d be distraught if I found out my son was when he was in the military, went through a court-martial, and did not get me involved. Now, I’m a lawyer, and obviously, I could help him. But even if I weren’t, I would do whatever I could to help my son or daughter out.

Lastly, you want to ensure your family members can be there as potential witnesses. We’ve had plenty of cases where we called mom, dad, grandma, and uncle loved ones, and they made a tremendous difference. I’ve had cases where we call the wife in, and the wife explains, you know, the husband’s problems with alcohol after deployment, for example, or PTSD. And it gives a human perspective on the case. And also, if the person happens to get convicted of something, you need those family members there. They can make a huge difference in lowering the sentence or reducing any punishment that can be given to you. Judges like hearing from family members who care because it says much about the service member. Now, if you don’t have family members who are mom or dad, a lot of people don’t have a mom or dad in their lives. Anyone you have, such as an aunt, an uncle, a close friend, a mentor, an adoptive parent, or anyone close to you, can feel the same role I’m talking about.

And that could include a spouse. So the bottom line is if your family members are out there, you should get them involved, you should be respectful, you should try to help out, and you should remember that in the end, they care about you, and they will do whatever it takes to help you get on your feet. You would be surprised. I’ve had people accused of dire, very heinous things, some of which they did, and they were shocked at their family members. Despite what they did and what they’re convicted of, we’re there to help them and fight until the end to get them back because we love them so much. That’s my advice. Take it for what it’s worth. But I’ve done many cases, and it’s always good to keep the family involved in your case.

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