Throughout the history of military criminal law, military defense lawyers have long relied on the strategy of emphasizing a defendant’s moral character. Known as the “good soldier” defense, this strategy highlights a service member’s record of conduct and professionalism as a means of showing that the accused is morally incapable of committing the crimes of which they stand accused. However, due to certain reforms included in 2015’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), accused military service members are no longer given the recourse of the good soldier defense and are treated more in line with their civilian counterparts.
Having been backed by overwhelming bipartisan support and approval from scholars, changes in the NDAA have virtually eliminated the applicability of the good soldier defense by limiting the amount of admissible character evidence in court martial proceedings. Proponents of the changes have claimed that the previous practice of using the testimonies of high-ranking officers and peers to refute their charges essentially made certain individuals immune from prosecution, allowing long-tenured officers to tip the scales in their favor.
While character evidence may still be introduced before sentencing and during the fact-finding portion of the courts martial process for charges of desertion or disobeying orders, its use is now prohibited for a wide variety of offenses.
The good soldier defense may not be used to defend against accusations of:
Why Is This Important?
Since the loss of any potential defense is, in essence, a win for the prosecution, the elimination of the good soldier defense serves as a blow to accused service members and places further emphasis on the need for a powerful legal team for soldiers to have a fighting chances against their charges. If you are a member of the military and have been accused of a crime, contact McCormack & McCormack today. Backed by more than 36 years of experience, our founding Military Criminal Defense Attorney Greg D. McCormack can provide the aggressive advocacy you need to protect your future.
Schedule a confidential consultation or call (888) 490-0876 today to get started.