Alcohol & Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault Defense

War on Sexual Assault in the Military Shift Burden to the Accused

Although service members are innocent until proven guilty, the recent “war on sexual assault” launched by advocates across the nation has fundamentally altered the “court-martial” playing field. Combating sexual assault in the military has been a major focus of Congress for the past several years, resulting in significant changes to the way the Government prosecutes these cases. Recent changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) have reduced the rights of the accused, while at the same time, expanding the rights of the alleged victim – before a single element of proof has seen the light of a courtroom. Now, the mere unsubstantiated allegation of sexual assault by an alleged victim gives her the right to her own government-funded lawyer (the Special Victim Counsel), a “special victim” advocate, the ability to request an immediate transfer to another duty station, and the “right” not to participate in any of the pretrial proceedings. This right to not participate includes at the Article 32 Investigation where incomplete, often self-serving, written statements, not subject to cross-examination, will be admitted as evidence of the sexual assault. Furthermore, legislation has made it harder to uncover potential motives for this alleged victim to fabricate her allegations of sexual assault.


The good news is that many rights for those accused of sexual assault have withstood the recent onslaught. It is important that those charged with sexual assault understand their rights. Although the process of a court-martial is separate from civilian criminal courts, those accused retain several rights, including:

  • the right to be represented by counsel at all stages of the proceeding
  • the right to discover evidence and witnesses before trial
  • the right to a trial before members of their service
  • the right to compel witnesses at trial
  • the right to confront (cross-examine) witnesses and evidence at trial, and
  • the right to appeal the decision or have an attorney review it.

Despite these apparent rights, make no mistake about it: facing charges of sexual assault is an uphill fight. The mere allegations will forever alter one’s life. Even if they ultimately prevail at trial, that sexual assault “allegation” bell cannot be “unrung.” Making matters worse, for those in the military, the government has stacked the deck against those facing allegations of sexual assault – for instance, in the U.S. Army, there are 25 specially selected, experienced and trained special victim prosecutors (SVPs) who do nothing but prosecute cases involving sexual assault. The equivalent dedicated, experienced and trained military defense counsel? ZERO. And it does not end there! Each SVP has his or her own dedicated paralegal and civilian victim-witness liaison to work with the SVP. Combined, this is a total of 75 specially selected, qualified and trained experts of the government dedicated to solely prosecuting cases of alleged sexual assault. The total number of dedicated military defense personnel working to defend those same Army Soldiers facing allegations of sexual assault? Again ZERO.

When facing an allegation of sexual assault, the vast prosecution machine an accused faces probably makes the right to hire a civilian court-martial defense counsel their single most important right.

Will M. Helixon spent four years as one of the U.S. Army’s primer Special Victim Prosecutors – he trained 100s of Army prosecutors how to try sexual assault cases and developed the program of instruction for the Sexual Assault Trial Advocacy Course for the U.S. Army. Will knows the inner working of the Army’s SVP program, how the Army prosecutes these sexual assault cases and the weaknesses in this program. He knows what evidence is relevant, and what’s merely a “wild goose chase.” When you’re facing the life-altering charges of sexual assault, you want a court-martial defense lawyer that has tried dozens of these cases to a panel of members and advised prosecutors on countless more. You want an insider who is not afraid to stand up to Congress, General Officers, your commanders, the prosecutors, and the Staff Judge Advocate. You need an experienced advocate that can navigate the maze of laws and regulations, separating facts from fiction. You want a court-martial defense lawyer to use the system to defend you – you want your own Sexual Assault Allegation Defender, one who is not learning on the job.


Excerpts from Lieutenant Colonel Will M. Helixon’s evaluations as a Special Victim Prosecutor

Lieutenant Colonel Rater, Staff Judge Advocate, 7th JMTC, Grafenwoehr, Germany, evaluation June 28, 2010, through June 27, 2011

Albeit operating in his area of responsibility for less than a year, LTC Helixon has remarkably achieved rock star status. Universally admired and highly respected, military justice practitioners, as well as law enforcement investigators and those affiliated with the USAREUR-wide Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program (SHARP), seek his sage counsel in order to solve challenging and demanding issues regarding sexual and domestic violence — he is the quintessential SME [Subject Matter Expert]. There is simply no other military justice practitioner on this continent that has done more to improve our military justice system than LTC Helixon.

Brigadier General Senior Rater, Assistant Judge Advocate General, Military Law & Operations, Office of the Judge Advocate General, Washington D.C., evaluation June 28, 2010, through 27, 2011

Fantastic performance! A dynamic litigator! Recently promoted, Will shows daily why he was hand-selected for this strategically important position, and why I regard him in the top 10% among his peers. He sets the standard for all other Special Victim Prosecutors to emulate.

Lieutenant Colonel Rater, Staff Judge Advocate, 7th JMTC, Grafenwoehr, Germany, evaluation June 28, 2011, through June 27, 2012

LTC Helixon is the finest military justice practitioner I have observed in my 18 years of service. . . . Will has put his stamp on nearly 40 courts-martial and innumerable investigations over the last year, both in Europe and in the CENTCOM AOR. . . . Will has established the blueprint for what every SVP should strive to be.

Brigadier General Senior Rater, Assistant Judge Advocate General, Military Law & Operations, Office of the Judge Advocate General, Washington D.C., evaluation June 28, 2011, through 27, 2012

LTC Will Helixon is one of the top 3 finest prosecutors in the US Army. Will’s knowledge of the UCMJ and his preparation for courts-martial is legendary, and his reputation as our Corps’ premier mentor and trainer is well-deserved. For years to come, Will would rightfully be the first pick of any commander or SJA dealing with a complex or difficult case or in need of a leader to develop junior Soldiers.

Lieutenant Colonel Rater, Staff Judge Advocate, 7th JMTC, Grafenwoehr, Germany, evaluation June 28, 2012, through June 27, 2013

LTC Helixon is perhaps the finest litigator in the US Army, and undisputedly one of this command’s key and essential pieces in its attempts to end sexual assault. Will’s skill and ability in the courtroom is known Army-wide. . . . Will’s reach has been global, as he has offered direct assistance on multiple high-profile cases in the CENTCOM theater of operations, and has been personally requested to instruct numerous Trial Counsel Assistance Programs at various worldwide locations. If I could pick one officer to lead the charge in investigating, preventing, and prosecuting sexual assault, it would be Will.

Brigadier General Senior Rater, Assistant Judge Advocate General, Military Law & Operations, Office of the Judge Advocate General, Washington D.C., evaluation June 28, 2012, through 27, 2013

Number 1 or 2 of 23 hand-picked special victims prosecutors in the Army–this makes LTC Will Helixon the best we have. Will is a phenomenal litigator, teacher, mentor, and trainer. I selected Will to lead the prosecution team in the Army’s highest-profile and complex senior officer court-martial in the last several decades and Will exceeded my highest expectations. Will’s sharp wit, tireless work ethic, and zealous advocacy continue to impress subordinates, peers, and senior commanders. He is one of the few judge advocates in the military who has and could continue to try and win DoD’s most sensitive and complex criminal cases–and he taught an entire generation to do the same. Already assigned as a military judge, LTC Helixon will continue to impact the JAG Corps and military justice for years to come.

Colonel Rater, Staff Judge Advocate, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, evaluation June 28, 2013, through June 27, 2014

LTC Helixon possesses a level of talent and dedication matched by few, if any, of the Army’s top litigators. Will is a premier criminal lawyer, with an abiding sense of fairness, who remains one of the best military justice practitioners I have served with in my 27-year career.

Consequences of Sexual Assaults Involving Alcohol

Once the alleged victim reports a sexual assault involving alcohol, it will be reported to law enforcement. That’s right. Regardless of the merits or content of the allegation, law enforcement is the only avenue to investigate the allegation. New policies require that ALL allegations of sexual assault MUST be reported to law enforcement for investigation and that commanders no longer have authority to investigate these allegations. After the law enforcement investigation, only the commander with authority (usually the brigade commander or first general officer in the chain of command) has the discretion to determine whether or not it’s appropriate to take no action, forward the matter to a higher authority for court-martial, or to impose nonjudicial or administrative punishment. Of course, in today’s “guilty until proven innocent” environment, it is very unlikely that an allegation of sexual assault will not go forward to a court-martial. Many if not most commanders, fearful they will not get promoted in the future, will send marginal and often unsubstantiated sexual assault charges to court-martial to allegedly ensure justice and merely give the victim her (or his) day in court.  This is especially true in Germany and other foreign jurisdictions where relationships with the host nation are critical to the U.S. mission.

The punishments associated with charges like these range from being dismissed with a dishonorable discharged to being confined in a military prison. More serious charges such as rape could even lead to a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. On the other end of the spectrum, military charges like “conduct unbecoming of an officer” may also be linked to your sexual assault charges. If you’re convicted of a sex crime, you’ll additionally face being forced to register as a sex offender, possibly for the rest of your life.

Waiting for the military to appoint you a defense attorney or ignoring these charges until they are preferred can be extremely detrimental. When charges are preferred, the Government usually rushes the case to an Article 32 hearing without the testimony of the victim, often leaving the accused no time to consult with a civilian counsel. Hiring an experienced sexual assault court-martial defense lawyer may be essential for your future. You need a lawyer who can assess the evidence, its strengths and weakness, and best attack the Government’s theory of the case. Waiting for sexual assault charges to be preferred may deprive you of this critical time.

With alcohol consumption playing a part in over half of sexual assault cases in the military, it’s important to work with a court-martial defense attorney who understands how alcohol can serve as a complicating factor in a case like this. You should insist on a court-martial defense lawyer who has prosecuted and defended alcohol facilitated sexual assault cases.

Happy group of friends at the bar having drinks

Do Not Delay in seeking the advice of a skilled court-martial defense attorney; the tone of your case can be set early on before preferral of charges. Only an exceptionally qualified attorney with the right mix of military defense, military prosecution and civilian defense experience can put the right pressure on the government to maximize your chances at avoiding a long, taxing, sexual assault court-martial. If a trial is inevitable, you need a court-martial defense lawyer that will go the distance, pressing the government at every stage of the proceeding.

Will M. Helixon has prosecuted and defended Soldiers facing alcohol facilitated sexual assault offenses. As a former Special Victim Prosecutor and Senior Defense Counsel, he understands the elements of proof, the strengths, and weaknesses of the government’s case, the psychology of the alleged victim, the “red flag” warning of false allegations, and how to hold the government to its high burden. He knows sexual assault cases.

If you are under investigation or facing court-martial for any sexual assault offenses, call Will M. Helixon today to employ his extensive military justice and civilian criminal defense experience to defend you to the fullest extent of the law.

The risks are clear – your freedom, your family, and your financial future.

Whether you need a court-martial defense lawyer or a lawyer to fight adverse administrative actions to protect your career, the Law Office of Will M. Helixon is here to fight for your rights.