The Good Soldier Defense – Three Things You Need To Know

United States Army rangers in action

Good Soldier Defense

A Good Soldier Defense is a well-recognized defense under the Rules of Court Martial, the Military Rules of Evidence and military case law. United States v. Wilson, 28 M.J. 48 (C.M.A. 1989). This defense allows the accused service member to show honorable service and military accomplishments to suggest that the charged misconduct is so incompatible with the member’s overall excellent military service that the accused would not have committed the crime. It’s a powerful tool for the defendant because the judge and jury can use this evidence all by itself to find reasonable doubt. If you have been charged with a military crime, there are many things to know about The Good Soldier Defense including:

1. Military Rule of Evidence 405: Military Rule of Evidence 405[1] allows the defense to use the accused’s excellent military service to disprove the allegations. This defense is established through evidence of the accused’s reputation for outstanding military “character.” Character evidence pertains to duty performance, military appearance, adherence to customs and courtesies, and the qualities of personal character desired of military personnel.

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2. Prepare: As noted above, the Good Soldier Defense is a powerful tool for each accused service member facing a court-martial. It must be carefully used and strategically incorporated when planning your case strategy. Without proper preparation, the prosecution can derail this defense because if the accused presents such character evidence, then the prosecution is allowed to attack the accused’s character by presenting evidence of other misconduct or challenging the character witnesses’ true knowledge of the accused’s alleged misconduct. Simply put, if inexpertly used, the Good Soldier Defense can ruin your case, but if done right it can be immensely important to securing an acquittal.

3. 2015 Changes: Being a good soldier still matters, but starting in 2015 its availability has been restricted to certain crimes where an accused’s character for military service is truly relevant, such as drug offenses, financial crimes and stealing. The 2015 Defense Authorization Act[2] approved language that makes the Good Soldier Defense inapplicable to several offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice including rape, sexual assault, stalking, larceny and wrongful appropriation, robbery, forgery, making checks with insufficient funds, sodomy, arson, extortion, burglary, housebreaking, perjury, and frauds against the United States.

Call Gagne, Scherer & Associates, LLC today to schedule a consultation with a civilian military criminal defense lawyer.

Any military charge is extremely serious.  Military members that have been accused of a crime should retain legal counsel as soon as possible. To schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced military criminal defense attorneys, call our office today at 877-867-5247.