Should I Hire A Civilian Military Attorney?

It’s a good question.

For criminal cases, Administrative Separation Hearings, and Boards of Inquiry the military will assign a free active-duty military attorney (JAG) to represent you, but the fact that you are reading this indicates you know that trusting someone “assigned” to handle the most significant event in your life is at least cause for questioning.

First, You Need an Attorney At The First Sign Of Trouble. Right Now!
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But active-duty military lawyers are usually unavailable to assist until you have formally been charged with a crime, have been told that you will be separated from the military, informed that you will lose your security clearance, etc. MANY cases are lost in those treacherous times between the first sign of trouble and the formal charge. You’ll be confronted with dozens of critical decisions that may seem inconsequential but making the wrong choice could do serious damage to your defense.

DON’T MAKE THESE DECISIONS WITHOUT A LAWYER. If you don’t have a uniformed attorney, please find a civilian attorney to help you now. Until then, we advise our clients to remain silent and demand to speak to an attorney before you answer any questions—from command or law enforcement. EVERYONE you speak to and EVERY word you say can be used against you. This is true even if you believe the conversation to be “private,” or someone promises you confidentiality. With very few exceptions (lawyer, priest, etc.) anyone you speak with may be compelled to tell the authorities what you said.

We can’t tell you how often innocent servicemembers suffered by speaking to the authorities because those leaders made them believe that speaking would be “in their best interest” or that “innocent people don’t need a lawyer.” WRONG!  Innocent people suspected of a crime need a lawyer most. Protect yourself—exercise your rights and call someone who knows how to protect you.

Long story short, I was found not guilty at a special court martial and now I have my whole career still in front of me. Knowing what I know now, I WHOLEHEARTEDLY recommend King Military Law because they fought so hard for me. [T]hey definitely have the experience and competency to win and mostly they care about the service members they represent and want to help get them the justice they deserve.

If you are looking around for a law firm to represent you, just know from my personal experience this firm is the best of the best. Thank you King Military Law!!

Long story short, I was found not guilty at a special court martial and now I have my whole career still in front of me. Knowing what I know now, I WHOLEHEARTEDLY recommend King Military Law because they fought so hard for me. [T]hey definitely have the experience and competency to win and mostly they care about the service members they represent and want to help get them the justice they deserve.

If you are looking around for a law firm to represent you, just know from my personal experience this firm is the best of the best. Thank you King Military Law!!

Second, Experience Matters!
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MAKE NO MISTAKE, HELPING YOU NAVIGATE THE TREACHEROUS WATERS YOU OR A LOVED ONE ARE FACING TAKES EXPERIENCE. WHILE THE JAGS ASSIGNED TO REPRESENT YOU ARE VERY LIKELY TO BE MOTIVATED, DEDICATED AND TALENTED, THEY ALSO LIKELY LACK THIS MOST CRITICAL OF REQUIREMENTS. THE REASON? THE MILITARY TENDS TO ASSIGN THE DUTY OF DEFENDING OUR SERVICE MEMBERS TO JUNIOR COUNSEL WITH RELATIVELY LITTLE EXPERIENCE IN MILITARY JUSTICE. THEY MAY KNOW THE RULES, THEY MAY BE AGGRESSIVE, BUT EXPERIENCE MATTERS.

“Achieves impressive results, including a not guilty verdict in a complex murder trial.” Navy Captain, 1999

Think of it this way: Military culture is to train us to do a job and then send us off to do it, regardless of experience. While many jobs require a fellowship or duty under instruction, where a more experienced ship-driver, pilot, doctor, etc., supervises and trains the less experienced officer for a period of time, that is not always so with JAGs. For example, Don defended his first murder case, with no supervision, when he was six months into his first tour! Defending a client charged with murder after only passing the bar less than two years before is unthinkable in the civilian world, but the military is different. The JAG assigned to represent you, while likely a capable attorney, may not have the desirable level of experience.

Those of us who have retired after practicing military law for decades are humbled by how much we didn’t know back when we were junior officers defending clients at courts martial and administrative hearings. Whether you’re facing a very delicate spine surgery or a complex board hearing or court martial, EXPERIENCE MATTERS!

Long story short, I was found not guilty at a court martial and now I have my whole career still in front of me. Knowing what I know now, I WHOLEHEARTEDLY recommend KML because they fought so hard for me. [T]hey definitely have the experience and competency to win and mostly they care about the service members they represent and want to help get them the justice they deserve. If you are looking around for a law firm to represent you, just know from my personal experience this firm is the best of the best. Thank you King Military Law!! M. Whitmon, 2024

A military justice expert, handpicked to defend the most complex . . . cases, including a Marine charged with espionage and a Commodore charged with dereliction.” Commanding Officer, 2004

Third, Civilian Attorneys Don’t Answer To The Military! 

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Military attorneys must “battle” against the same military leaders upon whom that lawyer may be required to rely upon to be promoted. That creates a terrible conflict of interest.  These active-duty attorneys are also officers with all the duties that come with that, such as providing legal services to large populations, leadership roles within their commands, collateral duties, and requirements to attend training, PRTs, and TDYs. These commitments will necessarily effect the time and attention they can provide you or any of their clients.  Additionally, while many JAGs want to be defense counsel, many others are assigned to that role as a necessary step in their military career. Finally, when you need a lawyer, the military will “assign” you one. You get no choice in the matter and your assigned lawyer may be good or not.  DON’T ACCEPT THAT! You need a lawyer experienced in military law, dedicated to representing you, with no commitments or allegiance to ANYONE BUT YOU!

“King Military Law, where do I start? Absolutely amazing. I have always felt like “you get what you pay for,” was a saying to live by. When I was searching for Legal Representation I wanted the best. Don King was confident which likewise instilled confidence in me and my family, which was very important to me. Don King is a go getter that does what he says. He never beat around the bush or told me anything that wasn’t true. He showed me through actions that he operates in a field of his own. The prosecution as well as the judge seemed overwhelmed and confused while standing in the same room. The prosecution’s closing statement in comparison to Don King was the equivalent of a child who is just learning to walk being compared to a seasoned Olympic Gold medalist in track . . . It resembled being in a mock court battle with actors playing the judge and the prosecution with a real lawyer with 38 plus years of experience representing me. If you care about the outcome of your case and/or your military career there is only one choice, Don King. This is not a payed for advertisement, this is a very happy “not guilty, all charges dropped” customer.” Jimmy S, 2022.

A Word About Cost
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Hiring an experienced attorney can be a tough financial investment. But don’t stop at cost. Weigh that cost against all you or a loved one has to lose. Many in need of an attorney don’t understand the high cost of losing at a court martial. Consider these:

You may go to prison and be a convicted felon.  Both of these results will not only impact you and your family immediately, they will follow you the rest of your life. You will likely lose your right to vote, to own a firearm, etc. Learn more about the cost of being a convicted felon.

If the conviction involves a sex offense, you’ll experience significant negative impacts in your life. The Nation’s sex offender registration laws are draconian and extremely severe. You’ll likely be required to register as a sex offender on public, searchable websites like these. You may never be able to live near schools or parks; you may be prohibited from being around children, attending your children’s functions, or coaching their teams; and you’ll be required to disclose this information to on employment applications. This status may also impact your ability to attend institutes of higher education. Learn more about these impacts here.

“They sent me to a General Court Martial and I was terrified. I called maybe 12 civilian lawyers and KML was definitely not the cheapest, so I kept calling around. But no one else matched the time they gave me on the phone during my consultation and everyone else seemed only to care about getting hired. I bit the bullet, got a loan, and hired Don King and his firm and was acquitted three months later! It’s true that you “get what you pay for,” and that was easily the best investment I’ll ever make.” R. Jeffers, 2021.

You may lose your job, your housing allowance, your medical insurance.  Depending on your rank, these benefits can easily add up to over $50-120,000 per year. Getting medical insurance as a civilian will likely cost more than $12,000 per year for an individual and twice that for a family.

You may lose your retirement. The loss of your retirement alone could equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost income to you and your family.

You may lose your VA benefits. Most junior servicemembers don’t understand the value of VA benefits. The best known is perhaps the GI-Bill, which will provide you or a family member nearly $100,000 in education benefits. But there are others, home loans, life insurance, health care, the list goes on. Check here to learn more about the value of the benefits you have earned.

You may be required to pay back enlistment bonuses or Academy education expenses. Academy educations are valued as high as $200,000 and the government will likely “garnish” any future income to recoup these costs.

You may face a lifetime of difficulty in getting future jobs. Most employers will know if you have been separated from the military for disciplinary reasons. If you have a court martial conviction, you will have a felony record, making federal, state or local government jobs nearly impossible to obtain and getting hired into most well-paying civilian jobs very difficult.

These costs are not listed to scare you, but to inform you. Too often, clients don’t consider these costs. Please consider them now. There is an INCREDIBLE amount riding on the outcome of this process…you are absolutely correct in searching for the best team to help you fight to avoid these outcomes. An experienced legal team can make a world of difference in that fight.

Whether you team up with Don or another experienced civilian military lawyer, or decide to go forward with your uniformed attorney, make sure you have as much experience on your team as possible.

If you have additional questions, please give us a call and let us see if we can help.

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