VLCO services are primarily intended for active duty military members and reservists on active duty who are victims of sexual assault; however, eligible victims of other crimes in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) may also seek assistance from a Victims’ Legal Counsel (VLC) as provided under 10 USC §1044 and JAGINST 5800.7F (JAGMAN).
A victim of sexual assault shall be informed and given the opportunity to consult with a VLC as soon as the victim receives assistance from a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program or Family Advocacy Program (FAP) Victim Advocate, military criminal investigator, victim-witness liaison or coordinator, or trial counsel. 10 USC §1565b.
Marine Corps VLC are judge advocates, who are highly qualified attorneys with extensive military justice backgrounds, have completed a certified victims’ advocacy course, and are required to be selected through a "sensitive screening process." The VLCO chain-of-command is functionally independent of convening authorities, staff judge advocates, LSSS OICs, trial counsel, and defense counsel. VLC are under the supervision of, and report to, the OIC, VLCO, who reports directly to the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps
VLCO services supplement, not replace, existing victim support services, including assistance currently provided by VWAP, SAPR Program, FAP, SARC, and Victim Advocates.
Conversations between VLC and victims are confidential and privileged communications. The relationship between a VLC and victim is that of an attorney-client relationship.
VLC provide victims an overview of the military justice system, including: investigation of crimes; roles and responsibilities of the convening authority, trial counsel, defense counsel, and investigators; purpose of the Article 32 hearing (also known as a Preliminary Hearing); preferral and referral of charges; trial procedures; and evidentiary matters.
VLC assist victims to understand legal options including: obtaining restraining orders and military protective orders; making Restricted versus Unrestricted reports of sexual assault; and obtaining testimonial or transactional immunity regarding collateral misconduct before testifying against the accused in the case.
VLC will ensure that victims are informed of existing rights provided under the UCMJ, Military Rules of Evidence (M.R.E.), and Rules for Courts-Martial (R.C.M.), specifically, right to be present at military justice proceedings (M.R.E. 615 and R.C.M. 806); right to provide victim’s view to convening authority regarding initial disposition of an offense (R.C.M. 306); right not to be compelled to make statements or produce evidence when not material and tends to degrade the person (M.R.E. 303); right to attend and be heard regarding admissibility of prior sexual history or predisposition evidence in sexual assault cases (M.R.E. 412); psychotherapist-patient privilege (M.R.E. 513); victim advocate-victim privilege (M.R.E. 514); right to receive a copy of the Record of Trial when victim testified in case involving sexual assault (Article 54, UCMJ); and right to be heard through counsel in court-martial proceedings pursuant to LRM v. Kastenberg, 72 M.J. 364 (C.A.A.F. 2013).
VLC will represent victims of crime in the military justice process. Detailed VLC attend interviews of the victim by investigators, trial counsel, defense counsel, and others. They represent the interests of the victim in court by writing and arguing appropriate motions for relief and assist victims with post-trial matters.
VLC solely represent the interests of the victim, even where those interests may be different than the Government’s interest in prosecuting the accused in the case.
VLC will assist in matters where the Victim may have been in violation of rules and regulations such as underage drinking, out after curfew hours, adultery, out without liberty buddy, etc.
VLC will assist victim with submitting matters post-trial (known as clemency).