Document Type


Publication Date



Congress enacted legislation that went into effect in 2023, which transferred prosecutorial decision-making for serious cases, including sexual assault, from Commanders to military lawyers. While there is some research on the military’s criminal justice system that supports shifting the decision-making to military lawyers, there is a large body of research that suggests lawyers, too, suffer from similar impediments when handling decision-making for sexual assault cases. In the wake of this new amendment, it is important to continue assessing how the change will impact case processing, by first clearly understanding what was happening when Commanders had complete authority. This article explores a sample of sexual offense cases by analyzing the variables that increased the likelihood that a Commander would criminally charge a sexual assault case. The results support the conclusion that Commanders charged cases based on the Seriousness of the Offense, the Strength of the Evidence, and the Victim’s1 Preference. However, the findings also reveal that Commanders incorporate Blame and Believability on the part of the victim when assessing whether to fire a servicemember; accused servicemembers are less likely to face separation when victim blame factors increase and believability factors decrease.