Your Rights

You have spent your entire military career defending the U.S. Constitution and the rights that it affords this country’s citizens. Shouldn’t you benefit from those same rights?

People often assume that military members give up many, if not all, of their Constitutional rights upon joining the military. In reality, military members enjoy the same rights that civilians do, if not better. Unfortunately, most military members are not aware of their rights or simply do not choose to exercise them. In such situations, this failure to know or exercise one’s rights can lead to serious repercussions that could have otherwise been avoided. You should know that any person subject to the UCMJ who suspects someone of an offense must advise the suspect of his/her rights under Article 31 of the UCMJ. Article 31 rights must include notifying the suspect of the general nature of the suspected offense, advising the member that he/she can remain silent, and informing the member of the consequences of making a statement if he/she does not remain silent.

Simply put, if you hear such an advisement of rights, then you are suspected of committing a crime. We encourage you to review and remember the following rights that you enjoy as a military member:

You have the absolute right to consult with a military defense attorney prior to making a statement or cooperating in the investigation. In addition, you have the right to have a military defense lawyer present during all questioning.

Too often, those suspected of a crime believe that they can talk their way out of trouble. Regardless of whether you have committed misconduct or not, this is rarely the best approach to take with investigators. It is important to note that investigators are permitted to lie to suspects about the extent of the evidence against them, the nature of the evidence, or even the existence of evidence in general. Further, these investigators are trained to elicit confessions from suspects. Thus, when most military members sit down and agree to talk with an investigator, they are talking to someone with more information about the current situation, with extensive training on how to conduct such interviews, and with the ability and willingness to lie outright during the interview. As a result, you may think that you are talking your way out of trouble when you are actually talking your way into additional charges. Certainly, there are times when it is appropriate and in your best interest to cooperate with investigators. Such situations, however, are best analyzed and agreed to by competent military defense lawyers with experience in military law. If you have been read your rights, the safest approach is to attempt to level the playing field with the investigators by contacting a military defense attorney to discuss your options.

You have the right to refuse to consent to searches of your home, car, computer, etc. Further, you have the right to refuse to consent to a search of your bodily fluids, such as urine or blood.

Searches of your home, car, computer, or bodily fluids can yield devastating evidence that prosecutors can later use against you. If you agreed to allow investigators to conduct such a search, it can be very difficult to challenge the legality of the search later. Further, such searches can lead to additional charges depending on what evidence is found.

You have the right to refuse to consent to a polygraph examination.

Polygraph examinations are marketed as a means to discern if someone is telling the truth. Military investigators, however, more commonly use them as an additional investigative tool. The use of polygraph examinations during suspect interviews can lead to false confessions. The smartest practice is to consult with an attorney before agreeing to submit to a polygraph examination.

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