Navy Victims’ Legal Counsel Program FAQ

 

 

Q. What is the Victims’ Legal Counsel (VLC) Program

A. The Department of the Navy established the VLC Program to promote and protect the legal rights and interests of a victim of a sexual offense. The VLC Program is an independent, world-wide organization that assigns military attorneys (JAG officers known as Victims’ Legal Counsel) to represent and provide legal services to eligible victims of a sexual offense. Legal services are provided free of charge to eligible victims of a sexual offense.

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Q. Who is eligible for services from the VLC Program?

A. In order to be eligible to receive legal services from the VLC Program, you must be a victim of a sexual offense and otherwise eligible for legal services from a military attorney. Sexual offenses include rape and sexual assault; stalking; rape and sexual assault of a child; and other sexual misconduct noted in Article 120c of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Victims eligible for VLC services include: Active-Duty and Reserve personnel; other service personnel, retirees when assaulted by an active-duty Navy member; and dependents, including spouses and children, of active-duty Navy members when assaulted by an active-duty member. Certain overseas Department of Navy civilian employees may also be eligible to receive services from the VLC Program. Victims not specifically identified above who are seeking VLC consultation shall be referred to the nearest VLC Office for an eligibility determination.

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Q. I am a victim of a sexual offense. Do I need a lawyer?

A. If you are asking yourself this question, then you probably should speak to a Victims’ Legal Counsel so that you can make an informed decision as to whether or not you do need a lawyer. After consulting with a Victims’ Legal Counsel, you may decide that you don’t need a lawyer. On the other hand, you may seek assignment of a Victims’ Legal Counsel to represent you and provide you legal services.

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Q. Who do Victims’ Legal Counsel report to?

A. Victims’ Legal Counsel are independent and their sole legal and ethical obligation is to provide legal services to clients. This independence means that no one in your (or your sponsor’s) chain of command or the chain of command of the person who assaulted you will influence VLC representation of your interests.

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Q: What type of report do I need to make to receive services from the VLC Program?

A. You don’t need to make any report in order to receive services from the VLC Program. You may speak to a Victims’ Legal Counsel about a decision to make a report of sexual assault or other sexual offense to military or civilian authorities. However, if you choose not to make a report or make a restricted report of sexual assault, the scope of legal services that can be provided to you will likely be limited.

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Q: What legal services does the VLC Program provide?

A. The sole mission of the VLC Program is to provide legal services, including advice and legal representation, to eligible victims of a sexual offense. The range of services extends from discussing the legal ramifications of making a report of sexual assault or a sexual offense to representing our clients at courts-martial where necessary to promote and protect our client’s legal rights and interests. Victims’ Legal Counsel routinely assist clients through the investigation and court-martial processes, provide legal advice related to any possible collateral misconduct such as underage drinking, fraternization, or orders violations, and assist clients in exercising legal rights such as seeking an expedited transfer or protective orders.

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Q: Are my conversations with a Victims’ Legal Counsel confidential?

A. Yes. As your attorney, a Victims’ Legal Counsel is generally prohibited from revealing information related to client communications without your permission.

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Q: What are my rights as a victim of a sexual offense?

A. There are many legal rights that serve to protect crime victims. Within the military, these rights include the right to be treated with fairness and respect for your dignity and privacy; the right to be reasonably protected from the offender [to include VLC advocacy for a Military Protective Order (MPO)]; the right to be reasonably heard at any public hearing or proceeding concerning continuation of the offender’s pre-trial confinement, sentencing of the offender, or the offender’s clemency and parole; the right to confer with government counsel (prosecutor) in the case; the right to receive restitution, if available; and the right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay. Victims of sexual offenses also have the right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of: any Article 32 hearings and court-martial proceedings related to the offense; hearings and proceedings relating to the offender’s continued pre-trial confinement or clemency and parole; and the offender’s release or escape. You also have the right to be present at these hearings and proceedings unless the court determines your testimony would be materially altered if you heard other testimony. If you are a member of the active duty or reserve component, you may have the right to an expedited transfer from your current command. There may be additional legal rights implicated in your case depending on the circumstances. Victims’ Legal Counsel can discuss these rights with you and, if necessary, exercise these rights on your behalf.

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Q: How do I request assignment of a Victims’ Legal Counsel?

A. You can directly contact your nearest VLC Program office, or you can ask your Victim Advocate (VA), Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), Family Advocacy Program (FAP) provider, military criminal investigator, or trial counsel to forward your information to the nearest VLC Program office on your behalf.

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Q: How do Victims’ Legal Counsel interact with my Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), Victim Advocate (VA), and/or FAP Provider?

A. Victims’ Legal Counsel work closely with SARCs, VAs and FAP providers to best support and provide services to victims of a sexual offense. However, the Victims’ Legal Counsel are primarily focused on providing legal services.

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Q: Where can I find a VLC Program office?

A. VLC Program offices are strategically located to provide legal services worldwide. If a local Victims’ Legal Counsel is not available, legal services can be provided over the phone, via email, or using video conferencing technology. You should contact your nearest VLC Program office. A list of offices can be found at www.jag.navy.mil.