United States v. Briggs — 5-year statute of limitations removed for rape offenses occurring between 1986 and 2006

On Dec. 10, 2020, the Supreme Court decided the case of United States v. Briggs, 141 S. Ct. 467 (2020). In this landmark opinion, the justices overturned a series of Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces decisions imposing a 5-year statute of limitations under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) for the prosecution of rapes committed by military members occurring between 1986 and 2006.

Prior to 2018, the relevant laws had been consistently interpreted to permit these prosecutions and the military regularly tried such cases. As a result of Briggs, allegations of rape offenses occurring on or after 14 November 1986 may now again be prosecuted at any time.

Like other military legal offices, the Ramstein Law Center offers several forms of support to victims of crimes and a potential avenue to the prosecution of active duty or retired offenders. The resources available to victims vary based on status, which may include:

  1. Active duty military / adult dependents;
  2. Federal employees / adult dependents (while OCONUS);
  3. Nonappropriated fund (NAF) employees / adult dependents (while OCONUS);
  4. Department of Defense (DOD) contractors (while OCONUS);
  5. Minor dependents; and
  6. Individuals unaffiliated with the military.

Participation in the military justice process or prosecution of a case, however, is not required to receive applicable victim services.

If this decision affects you, and you are an active duty member/adult dependent, we encourage you to reach out to your local Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) team or Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) for support and coordination of resources.

The SAPR team at Ramstein can be reached via DSN at 480-7272 or commercial at +49 6371-47-7272. You have the option of filing a restricted report, which limits the notification and awareness of the report to confidential channels. You also have the option of filing an unrestricted report, which would result in notification to your commander and prompt an investigation.

If you are a victim living OCONUS and are a federal employee/adult dependent, a NAF employee/adult dependent, or a DOD contractor, you are also eligible for SAPR and SARC services. However, you may only file an unrestricted report. Consequently, any report will result in commander (or equivalent) notification, and an investigation will be initiated.

Minor dependents of military-affiliated members as identified above may seek assistance through the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) of their affiliated branch of military service. For Air Force-affiliated members, Ramstein Family Advocacy can be reached via DSN at 480-2370 or Commercial at +49 6371-46-2370.

If you are otherwise unaffiliated with the military — for instance, a local national civilian not otherwise employed by the DOD or a NAF entity — you are encouraged to reach out directly to the Ramstein Law Center by phone via DSN at 480-5911/5912 or commercial at +49 6371-47-5911/5912. When calling, please state that you would like to speak to an attorney regarding an allegation against a military member. If you would prefer to seek services specializing in victim support without reporting an offense to our office, you may instead contact Weisser Ring (https://weisser-ring.de/english) at +49 6131-600-7311, which is a victim support organization within Germany.

Victims of sexual assault, rape, abusive touching, or domestic violence, including minors, may be eligible to obtain a Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC), which is a cost-free attorney representing a victim’s interests and providing them confidential legal advice.

SVCs can attend interviews with victims, advise them throughout the legal process, advocate for them in front of commanders, judges, and other entities, and empower victims to pursue their desired outcomes in a case. To determine if a free SVC can be a helpful resource for you, confidential consultations are available through the Ramstein SVC Office via DSN at 478-4782 or commercial at +49 6371-405-4782. If you’re uncertain that you qualify for SVC services, SVCs can seek exceptions to policy to represent clients who may otherwise be ineligible.

Separately, victims eligible for Legal Assistance may also consult with attorneys at the Ramstein Law Center for advice and guidance through the phone numbers listed earlier.

While every case is different, unrestricted reports of rapes and other serious crimes will be investigated by the military or forwarded to the appropriate civilian law enforcement agency for consideration. If a military investigation is initiated, in appropriate cases, a Victim and Witness Assistance Program (VWAP) Liaison from the Ramstein Law Center may be detailed to provide routine status updates.

Finally, if you would like to make a report but have concerns about future interactions with an offender, there may be options to address those issues when that report is made available to the offender’s chain of command. This includes the issuance of no-contact orders and military protective orders for your benefit. Such protections may involve restricting an offender’s ability to speak to a victim, be physically near a victim, or use a third party to contact a victim on behalf of the offender.