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Training and Education

Legal Services for Crime Victims

8 things that victims of crime need to know about Victims' Legal Counsel

Navy Victims' Legal Counsel (VLC) provide eligible victims of a military sexual offenses with a dedicated attorney to help them understand the investigation and military justice process, safeguard their legal rights and interests, advocate on their behalf, and obtain additional support in accessing resources that may assist in their recovery.

1. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps each established Victims' Legal Counsel programs in 2013. Navy Victims' Legal Counsel (VLC) provide eligible victims of a military sexual offenses with a dedicated attorney to help them understand the investigation and military justice process, safeguard their legal rights and interests, advocate on their behalf, and obtain additional support in accessing resources that may assist in their recovery. Marine Corps VLC provide these legal services to eligible victims of sexual assault and all crimes under the UCMJ. All eligible persons who are victims of a sexual assault or other sexual misconduct are encouraged to speak to VLC on a confidential basis, even if only to learn about the program and benefits of representation.

2. VLC are available worldwide. The Navy VLC Program has offices at 24 installations around the globe to provide victims legal services whether deployed or at home. The Marine Corps has established 11 office locations worldwide that cover all eligible victims, including those deployed. A key takeaway is that the program is voluntary - you don't have to have a VLC. But a VLC is readily available to help if requested.

3. VLC are autonomous. VLC's principal legal and ethical obligation is to provide legal services to clients. This independence means that no one in a victim's chain of command or the accused's chain of command will influence VLC representation of a victim's interests. Also, as a victim's attorney, a VLC is prohibited from revealing information related to client communications without a victim's permission in accordance with applicable professional responsibility rules.

4. VLC are available to consult with victims in cases involving both restricted and unrestricted reports of sexual assault. In cases of unrestricted reports, VLC are available to provide legal advice and representation throughout the military justice process so that offenders may be held appropriately accountable. Holding offenders appropriately accountable is one of the best ways to send the message that sexual assault will not be tolerated in the Navy and Marine Corps. VLCs have a positive impact on the Department of the Navy's operational readiness and on the quality of life for service members.

5. Service members can go to Navy or Marine Corps VLC and get help. No eligible Sailor or Marine looking for help will be turned away. Both offices work very closely with each other to ensure legal services are effective and thorough.

6. VLC are making a difference. VLC complement the care and support victims already receive by providing skilled legal advice, representation and, as appropriate, advocacy for victims. They help victims understand the investigative and military justice processes, advocate in court as appropriate for the victim's rights and interests, and provide legal advice to assist the victim. VLC help protect victims' rights and support the broader goal of ensuring the administration of a fair, transparent and efficient military justice system that promotes good order and discipline.

7. Every case is entitled to a thorough and fair investigation. NCIS's primary role is to conduct a timely and comprehensive investigation to facilitate an informed legal analysis and recommendation so that commanders will have all facts available for disposition decisions. There is no typical investigation and no all-encompassing formula to determine case disposition. Each case is considered on its own merits. VLC will work with victims, NCIS, and commanders as decisions are made throughout the military justice process.

8. More information can be obtained online. http://www.jag.navy.mil/legal_services/vlc.htm and http://www.hqmc.marines.mil/sja/Branches/VictimLegalCounselOrganization(VLCO).aspx