Special Considerations in Attorney-Veteran Client Relationships

The winter issue of The Challenger, the Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Attorney’s quarterly periodical, features an article by Minneapolis, Minnesota criminal defense attorneys from Brockton D. Hunter P.A. The article, “Special Considerations in the Attorney-Veteran Client Relationship,” addresses the unique challenges and opportunities that come with a criminal defendant who is also a military veteran. Below is an excerpt from the article.

For as long as warriors have returned from battle, some have brought their war home with them, bearing invisible wounds that haunt in the present. These echoes of war—manifested in self-destructive, reckless, and violent behavior—reverberate through society, destroying not only the lives of these heroes, but their families and communities. When they stumble and fall into the criminal justice system, as we know many of them will, we in the defense bar have an additional, solemn role to play, in helping them up and bringing them the rest of the way home. This article scratches the surface of strategies for addressing the special concerns involved in defending veterans. The ideas are drawn from The Attorney’s Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court, a comprehensive manual to the art and science of defending military veterans.

As we prepare to defend those who defended us, we must first recognize that we in the criminal defense bar share much in common with our veteran clients. Like soldiers, our job is often gritty and thankless; our mission misunderstood by the general public. Like soldiers, ours is a proud warrior culture, a tight and insular community with an esprit de corps not found in many other professions or areas of the law. Above all, we, like our veteran clients, swore a sacred oath to defend the rights and freedoms that make our system of government so special.

With proper preparation and execution, defending veterans can be among the most rewarding experiences a defense attorney can have. We can simultaneously help repay our nation’s debt to these heroes for their service and sacrifice, uphold the special protections now afforded them in our justice system, and benefit society by helping turn them back into assets, not threats, to their communities.

So what’s the kicker? For many of us, defending this particular group of clients will require that we rethink foundational elements of the attorney-client relationship. By now, most Minnesota defense lawyers should recognize that veteran-defendants present certain challenges and opportunities in courtroom and negotiation strategy. Thanks to advances in medical understanding of military-related disorders and increasing societal awareness, the law today often allows veterans to achieve substantially better, treatment-heavy dispositions. However, these favorable outcomes are made substantially more likely if the defense lawyer is focused on special attorney-client issues from the moment they first make contact with their veteran-client.