United States Code
USC most recently checked for updates: Mar 25, 2023
Special Victims’ Counsel for victims of sex-related offenses
The Secretary concerned shall designate legal counsel (to be known as “Special Victims’ Counsel”) for the purpose of providing legal assistance to an individual described in paragraph (2) who is the victim of an alleged sex-related offense, regardless of whether the report of that offense is restricted or unrestricted.
An individual described in this paragraph is any of the following:
An individual eligible for military legal assistance under section 1044 of this title.
An individual who is—
not covered under subparagraph (A);
a member of a reserve component of the armed forces; and
a victim of an alleged sex-related offense as described in paragraph (1)—
during a period in which the individual served on active duty, full-time National Guard duty, or inactive-duty training; or
during any period, regardless of the duty status of the individual, if the circumstances of the alleged sex-related offense have a nexus to the military service of the victim, as determined under regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Defense.
A civilian employee of the Department of Defense who is not eligible for military legal assistance under section 1044(a)(7) of this title, but who is the victim of an alleged sex-related offense, and the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of the military department concerned waives the condition in such section for the purposes of offering Special Victims’ Counsel services to the employee.
The types of legal assistance authorized by subsection (a) include the following:
Legal consultation regarding potential criminal liability of the victim stemming from or in relation to the circumstances surrounding the alleged sex-related offense and the victim’s right to seek military defense services.
Legal consultation regarding the Victim Witness Assistance Program, including—
the rights and benefits afforded the victim;
the role of the Victim Witness Assistance Program liaison and what privileges do or do not exist between the victim and the liaison; and
the nature of communication made to the liaison in comparison to communication made to a Special Victims’ Counsel or a legal assistance attorney under section 1044 of this title.
Legal consultation regarding the responsibilities and support provided to the victim by the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, a unit or installation Sexual Assault Victim Advocate, or domestic abuse advocate, to include any privileges that may exist regarding communications between those persons and the victim.
Legal consultation regarding the potential for civil litigation against other parties (other than the United States).
Legal consultation regarding the military justice system, including (but not limited to)—
the roles and responsibilities of the trial counsel, the defense counsel, and investigators;
any proceedings of the military justice process in which the victim may observe;
the Government’s authority to compel cooperation and testimony; and
the victim’s responsibility to testify, and other duties to the court.
Representing the victim at any proceedings in connection with the reporting, military investigation, and military prosecution of the alleged sex-related offense.
Legal consultation regarding eligibility and requirements for services available from appropriate agencies or offices for emotional and mental health counseling and other medical services;
Legal consultation and assistance—
in personal civil legal matters in accordance with
in any proceedings of the military justice process in which a victim can participate as a witness or other party;
in understanding the availability of, and obtaining any protections offered by, civilian and military protecting or restraining orders; and
in understanding the eligibility and requirements for, and obtaining, any available military and veteran benefits, such as transitional compensation benefits found in section 1059 of this title, section 1408(h) of this title, and other State and Federal victims’ compensation programs.
Legal consultation and assistance in connection with—
any complaint against the Government, including an allegation under review by an inspector general and a complaint regarding equal employment opportunities;
any request to the Government for information, including a request under section 552a of title 5 (commonly referred to as a “Freedom of Information Act request”); and
any correspondence or other communications with Congress.
Legal consultation and assistance in connection with an incident of retaliation, whether such incident occurs before, during, or after the conclusion of any criminal proceedings, including—
in understanding the rights and protections afforded to victims of retaliation;
in the filing of complaints; and
in any resulting military justice proceedings.
Such other legal assistance as the Secretary of Defense (or, in the case of the Coast Guard, the Secretary of the Department in which the Coast Guard is operating) may authorize in the regulations prescribed under subsection (i).
The relationship between a Special Victims’ Counsel and a victim in the provision of legal advice and assistance shall be the relationship between an attorney and client.
An individual may not be designated as a Special Victims’ Counsel under this section unless the individual—
meets the qualifications specified in section 1044(d)(2) of this title; and
is certified as competent to be designated as a Special Victims’ Counsel by the Judge Advocate General of the armed force in which the judge advocate is a member or by which the civilian attorney is employed, and within the Marine Corps, by the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
The Secretary of Defense shall—
develop a policy to standardize the time period within which a Special Victims’ Counsel receives training; and
establish the baseline training requirements for a Special Victims’ Counsel.
Consistent with the regulations prescribed under subsection (i), the Judge Advocate General (as defined in section 801(1) of this title) under the jurisdiction of the Secretary concerned, and within the Marine Corps the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, is responsible for the establishment and supervision of individuals designated as Special Victims’ Counsel.
The Secretary of Defense (and, in the case of the Coast Guard, the Secretary of the Department in which the Coast Guard is operating) shall conduct a periodic evaluation of the Special Victims’ Counsel programs operated under this section.
The Secretary of Defense, in collaboration with the Secretaries of the military departments and the Secretary of the Department in which the Coast Guard is operating, shall establish—
guiding principles for the Special Victims’ Counsel program, to include ensuring that—
Special Victims’ Counsel are assigned to locations that maximize the opportunity for face-to-face communication between counsel and clients; and
effective means of communication are available to permit counsel and client interactions when face-to-face communication is not feasible;
performance measures and standards to measure the effectiveness of the Special Victims’ Counsel program and client satisfaction with the program; and
processes by which the Secretaries of the military departments and the Secretary of the Department in which the Coast Guard is operating will evaluate and monitor the Special Victims’ Counsel program using such guiding principles and performance measures and standards.
An individual described in subsection (a)(2) who is the victim of an alleged sex-related offense shall be offered the option of receiving assistance from a Special Victims’ Counsel upon report of an alleged sex-related offense or at the time the victim seeks assistance from a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, a Sexual Assault Victim Advocate, a military criminal investigator, a victim/witness liaison, a trial counsel, a healthcare provider, or any other personnel designated by the Secretary concerned for purposes of this subsection.
Subject to such exceptions for exigent circumstances as the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Department in which the Coast Guard is operating may prescribe, notice of the availability of a Special Victims’ Counsel shall be provided to an individual described in subsection (a)(2) before any military criminal investigator or trial counsel interviews, or requests any statement from, the individual regarding the alleged sex-related offense.
The assistance of a Special Victims’ Counsel under this subsection shall be available to an individual described in subsection (a)(2) regardless of whether the individual elects unrestricted or restricted reporting of the alleged sex-related offense. The individual shall also be informed that the assistance of a Special Victims’ Counsel may be declined, in whole or in part, but that declining such assistance does not preclude the individual from subsequently requesting the assistance of a Special Victims’ Counsel.
Subject to subparagraph (B), if a Special Victims’ Counsel is not available at a military installation for access by a member of the armed forces who requests access to a Special Victims’ Counsel, a Special Victims’ Counsel shall be made available at such installation for access by such member by not later than 72 hours after such request.
If the Secretary concerned determines that, due to exigent circumstances related to military activities, a Special Victims’ Counsel cannot be made available to a member of the armed forces within the time period required by subparagraph (A), the Secretary concerned shall ensure that a Special Victims’ Counsel is made available to such member as soon as is practical under such circumstances.
Commencing not later than four years after the date of the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, each Secretary concerned shall ensure that the number of Special Victims’ Counsels serving in each military department (and with respect to the Coast Guard) is sufficient to ensure that the average caseload of a Special Victims’ Counsel does not exceed, to the extent practicable, 25 cases any given time.
In this section, the term “alleged sex-related offense” means any allegation of—
a violation of section 920, 920b, 920c, or 930 of this title (article 120, 120b, 120c, or 130 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice); or
an attempt to commit an offense specified in a paragraph (1) as punishable under section 880 of this title (article 80 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice).
The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Department in which the Coast Guard is operating shall prescribe regulations to carry out this section.
(Added Pub. L. 113–66, div. A, title XVII, § 1716(a)(1),
Dec. 26, 2013, 127 Stat. 966; amended Pub. L. 113–291, div. A, title V, §§ 531(c), 533, 534(a), Dec. 19, 2014, 128 Stat. 3364, 3366, 3367; Pub. L. 114–92, div. A, title V, §§ 532–534(a), 535(a), (b), Nov. 25, 2015, 129 Stat. 815, 816; Pub. L. 115–91, div. A, title X, § 1081(c)(2)(D), Dec. 12, 2017, 131 Stat. 1599; Pub. L. 116–92, div. A, title V, §§ 541, 542(a), Dec. 20, 2019, 133 Stat. 1374, 1375; Pub. L. 116–283, div. A, title X, § 1081(a)(22), Jan. 1, 2021, 134 Stat. 3872; Pub. L. 117–81, div. A, title X, § 1081(a)(15), Dec. 27, 2021, 135 Stat. 1920.)
cite as: 10 USC 1044e