Military Sexual Harassment Lawyer

Addressing claims of sexual harassment in the military has become a top priority for both lawmakers and the military’s top brass. If you are a service member who is facing accusations of sexual harassment, you need a knowledgeable and dedicated defense attorney. Our Honolulu-based military sexual harassment lawyer has the experience and skill to defend you against these allegations. He has a complete and thorough understanding of the administrative and court-martial processes as well as the passion to defend your career as a service member.

How the Military Defines Sexual Harassment

The Department of Defense defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and offensive sexual comments or gestures that:

  • is made a term or condition of a person’s job, pay, or career
  • is used as a basis for career or employment decisions
  • has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance; or
  • creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. The conduct must be so pervasive or severe that a reasonable person would perceive, and the victim does perceive, the environment as offensive.

Sexual harassment can occur through any form of communication, including electronic, social media, and/or in-person. A Honolulu-based lawyer could explain how this legal definition may apply to a specific sexual harassment case. 

Rights of Accused Service Members

An allegation of sexual harassment brought to the attention of the command is required to be investigated. Unless the allegation is part of a larger law enforcement investigation, it will be investigated and handled administratively by the command. The command appointed investigator will not be a law enforcement agent or officer. It will be a commissioned officer pulled from their normal duties to investigate you. Although these investigators are not typically familiar with the tricks and traps employed by law enforcement, they take a similar approach. They will presume you are guilty and try to find any evidence they can to prove it. They will submit findings and recommendations to the commander, which will likely skew even innocent facts against you. During the investigation, the investigator will inevitably approach you for a statement.

Under Article 31(b) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), no active service member may be interrogated or be requested to make a statement about the suspected offense without being informed of the nature of the accusation, being informed that s/he does not have to make a statement, and that any statement made may be used as evidence against him or her at court-martial. The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution also provide service members with the right to an attorney, as explained in Military Rules of Evidence (MRE) 305(c). These rights also apply to administrative command interrogations.

Any investigator who approaches you to make a statement about an offense you are suspected of committing will have you fill out a rights advisement form. The form will inform you of the suspected offense and your rights. It will contain the options to remain silent, request an attorney, or waive your rights and make a statement. The investigator may make it seem like it is not a big deal to waive your rights, and many service members make the fatal mistake of making a statement before speaking with a lawyer.  It is advisable to speak with an attorney before even thinking about speaking to any investigator.

Potential Punishments for Service Members Accused of Sexual Harassment

Each branch of the military prohibits sexual harassment by punitive order. As such, it is punishable under Article 92, UCMJ for failure to obey a lawful order. If a superior is accused of sexually harassing a subordinate, it punishable under Article 93, UCMJ, for cruelty and maltreatment. If an investigation into sexual harassment is founded against a service member, the command has a variety of options.

If the evidence is weak, the command will likely take administrative action, such as a letter of reprimand and/or administrative separation which could result in a General (Under Honorable Conditions) or Other Than Honorable discharge. The reason administrative action is taken with weak evidence is mainly because the standard of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence,” which is significantly lower than the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” required for punitive actions under the UCMJ. If the evidence is strong, the command may pursue nonjudicial punishment, or even court-martial.

Some of the penalties at court-martial include being dishonorably discharged from the military, the loss of all pay, and imprisonment for three years. In 2019, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced a plan to make sexual harassment an independent crime under the UCMJ.

An accusation of sexual harassment can seriously damage an individual’s military career and civilian future. Service members in any part of the world who are accused of sexual harassment should seek assertive legal representation from our dedicated attorney in Honolulu.

Contact a Honolulu-Based Sexual Harassment Attorney

With increasing scrutiny, rising statistics, and political pressure, the consequences of sexual harassment in the military are increasingly severe. If you, an active military member, are accused of sexual harassment, do not allow your military career, reputation, livelihood, and freedoms to be taken without a fight. Our law office has extensive military and legal experience at our disposal.

A knowledgeable Honolulu-based military sexual harassment lawyer who has also served in the military and understands the importance of preserving your honor, integrity, and record could make all the difference. If you want to retain a lawyer who understands your unique position as a service member, please contact our office today.