Michael (Mike) Hanzel is “Of Counsel” with JAG Defense. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Mr. Hanzel graduated from the University of Virginia in 1999 and the top-10 ranked University of Virginia School of Law in 2005. In between college and law school, he served as a legislative assistant to a member of the British House of Commons, drafting legislation that modernized the United Kingdom’s child sex offender laws and gaining valuable experience in the political side of the lawmaking process as well as criminal law. He then spent two years as a journalist, working at The Associated Press, as a sportswriter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and as a columnist for ESPN, while contributing to numerous other websites and publications.
In 2005, Mr. Hanzel was commissioned in the U.S. Navy JAG Corps, which he served in for 12 years. He focused on criminal defense litigation and was selected by the Navy as a Specialist in its Military Justice Litigation Qualification Career Track. As an O-3 (Lieutenant), he served as a defense counsel and Branch Head in Charleston, South Carolina, before becoming the Navy’s sole prosecutor in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility. Based in Bahrain, he traveled numerous times in and out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar and Dubai to investigate, prosecute and help commands. After 15 months in the Arabian Gulf, he was given orders to a prestigious clerkship at the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals before joining the Navy’s Appellate Defense Division. While there, his defense of a Marine lance corporal who had been prosecuted for attempting suicide while suffering from PTSD, which he took all the way to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and won, garnered international attention and resulted in the Department of Defense publicly announcing a review of its policy on military suicide attempts. Still an O-3, he was then hand-selected to take an O-4 department head job in the Northwest, where he was placed in charge of all of the Navy’s Pacific Northwest defense attorneys. He was promoted to lieutenant commander (O-4) while in Bremerton, Washington, and then followed that by accepting orders to Norfolk, Virginia, at the Navy’s largest and busiest criminal defense litigation office. There, he was promoted to Senior Defense Counsel and represented Coastguardsmen, Marines, and Sailors accused of crimes or being involuntarily separated from the military. Stationed for three years in Norfolk, he amassed an impressive personal record of acquittals and legal victories while leading Navy defense counsel in the region to remarkable levels of innovative practice and success in support of individual clients against the Government.
On 30 September 2017, he left active duty as one of the Navy’s most experienced litigators to represent clients in private practice. Based out of Charleston, South Carolina, but able to practice worldwide for military clients, his practice focuses on military law, criminal law and appeals. Mr. Hanzel is licensed in Virginia and South Carolina, is a member of the bars of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, and he is certified for military cases under Article 27(b) and sworn under Article 42(a) of the UCMJ.