As many of us have found out the hard way, the civilian world keeps moving even after we have signed on the dotted line, raised our hands, and taken our oath to protect and defend the Constitution of United States.
Unfortunately, what happens in the civilian world doesn’t always stay in the civilian world, and it can boil over into our military lives as well, resulting in significant implications for continued service in uniform. Consequences can include potential discipline, loss of security clearance, inability to obtain federal or state employment in the future, and, at times, even separation from the military altogether.
There are many in the civilian world who specifically prey upon service members. They are an unscrupulous lot, with methods ranging from selling lemon vehicles to wrongfully withholding a tenant’s security deposit, and a whole host of other methods designed to separate you from your hard earned money. As a Soldier in the United States Army you are a warrior, trained to fight. Those of us here in the Legal Assistance Office are trained to fight in the legal arena. We are here to help you do everything you can to safeguard your wallet, your career, and even your reputation.
Legal issues are not like fine wine or cheese, and they absolutely do not get better with age. When a legal issue arises the key is to get a handle on it immediately. If you do not have time to bring your issues to us, then make time. Nearly all legal matters are governed by specific time frames which must be met, called statutes of limitation. If you let these dates and times pass, even a winning case can be summarily lost as a matter of law.
The second worst option, behind doing nothing, is to listen to the barracks lawyer. We have all come across them at one time or another, and in one form or another. While they may come across as knowledgeable and savvy, the truth of the matter is that they are practicing law without a license, and doing a very bad job of it. No amount of bravado, or citations to the UCMJ, can change the fact that they do not know what they are talking about. They only know enough to make a splendid mess of things, leaving you in an even worse situation than before, and confused about how everything went south so quickly. Which begs the question of why would anyone listen to a half-baked barracks lawyer when a real lawyer is ready to help?
It is also very important to note that in addition to the many services our office provides, including wills, powers of attorney, consumer protection, income tax preparation, credit problems, immigration, advance medical directives, divorce, legal counseling, and notary services, among many others, we also have a Special Victim’s Counsel (SVC) available.
An SVC is a licensed attorney, specially trained in advocating for victims of sexual assault. An SVC stands ready to act as both a sword and a shield for victims, defending his or her rights in an arena where, in the not-too-distant past, a victim was not independently represented by counsel.
The SVC can help a victim navigate the often turbulent waters of the criminal justice system, whether military or civilian, and can advocate a victim’s interests to any actor in the military justice and administrative process resulting from the sexual assault, including commanders, convening authorities, Staff Judge Advocates, the accused’s defense counsel, and the military judge. While the SVC has the ability to advocate on behalf of the victim in military courts, the level and type of advocacy is more limited in civilian courts. However, he or she can coordinate with civilian authorities, including law enforcement and prosecutors.
The SVC can also offer assistance in obtaining civilian Domestic Violence Restraining Orders, and can also assist you with a host of other civil legal issues, including family law, landlord-tenant and consumer laws that are related to your case.
Come see us in Bldg. 230, or call 760-380-5321 to make an appointment. We are here to help.