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Understanding “The Good Soldier Defense”

If you’re a servicemember with an excellent conduct record, your defense counsel can use it to your advantage if you’re arrested for certain crimes. “The Good Soldier Defense” allows you to provide your military accomplishments and prior honorable services evidence the charged misconduct is not consistent with your exemplary character. By showing the charges are inconsistent with your past military record of service, a skilled defense attorney can create reasonable doubt in the minds of the judge or jury in whether you committed the charged crimes. Looking for more information? Here’s what you should know about this military defense.

What Does This Defense Look At?

Military Rule of Evidence 405 uses your exemplary military service to disprove criminal allegations against you. An attorney will provide evidence of your good military character in the form of reputation and/or opinion of a third party who has ample interactions with you to form such a positive opinion.  Specifically, a third party witness could testify to your exceptional military character while in combat, or testify to your military appearance or professionalism. Furthermore, that same witness could testify to your duty performance while in garrison or on post; adherence to courtesies and customs; and, the qualities of your personal character.

What’s the Downside?

Military law states that a service member’s “character or trait of character” cannot be used as evidence if its purpose is solely to show that you committed the crime. However, an exception to this rule is when the defense offers good military character evidence to indicate you would not have committed the crime charged. Once you bring your military character in as evidence, the prosecution is allowed to attack that character evidence to nullify the defense. If you’re not properly prepared, the process may cause more damage to your case.

When Can It Be Used?

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was changed in 2015, restricting it to crimes where your character truly matters, such as financial crimes, drug offenses, and stealing. The change made the good soldier defense inapplicable to more heinous crimes including sexual assault, rape, stalking, robbery, wrongful appropriation and larceny, making checks with insufficient funds, forgery, arson, sodomy, housebreaking, burglary, extortion, frauds against the U.S., and perjury.

Is “The Good Soldier Defense” Effective?

This defense strategy has been proven to work in previous cases. Take, for example, the U.S. v. Hector Gomez case from 2007. The U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals judge stated that the untainted witness testimony left him with a “lingering, reasonable doubt” as to whether Gomez had been a drug user. Character witnesses had praised Gomez, establishing his positive reputation for outstanding military character, dependability, and performance.

Military charges are extremely serious and require legal counsel that should be retained as soon as possible. Call the Military Justice Attorneys at 844-334-5459 to talk about your service and let us help you through this trying time. We offer a free consultation so contact us today!

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