Sexual assault in the military has been a national hot-button issue. Over the past several years, advocates and lawmakers have worked diligently to reshape laws regarding sexual abuse in the military and the ways in which officials handle accusations and convicted offenders. As part of the ongoing effort to improve and strengthen standards, a bill proposed by House lawmakers earlier this month is calling for a comprehensive database of military sex offenders.
The bill - sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier and Rep. Mike Coffman - aims at creating more transparency about sexual abuse among U.S. military branches. It also attempts to close a loophole that shields military members from having their convictions automatically reported to law enforcement.
Currently, civilians who are convicted of registerable sex crimes automatically have their information added to offender registries. Military members have the option of self-reporting. Should the bill pass, servicemembers would automatically be added to sex offender registries, thereby making Department of Defense (DoD) sex crime convictions available to the public. These records would also contain descriptions of an offender’s crime, rather than vague terminology.
Supporters of the bill stated their motivations concerned public safety. Under the current standards, servicemembers convicted of sexual assault or other sex crimes could assimilate back into civilian life without reporting their convictions. Given high rates of recidivism for sexual crimes, this could place many civilians at risk.
The new bill has received bipartisan support and support from many advocacy groups, and it helps highlight the shifting trend toward harsh penalties and long-term consequences for military members convicted of sex crimes.
If you have questions about military sex offenses, contact a military criminal defense attorney from The Federal Practice Group .