Frequently Asked Questions
I am being accused under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. What does that mean?
The Uniform Code of Military Justice is the law by which military personnel must abide. Often referred to as the “UCMJ”, this statute forms the basis for military criminal law. It contains the requirements for jurisdiction, trial procedure, sentencing, appeals and non-judicial punishment for offenses.
Even though I am in the military and accused under the Uniform Code for Military Justice, do I have the same constitutional rights as other Americans who have been accused of a crime?
Many military personnel believe that they have relinquished their constitutional rights when they join up. This is not true. Most of the rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution generally apply to everyone. There are some exceptions and you need an experienced military law attorney to advise you on these issues.
Do I need to respond to interrogating questions asked by my superiors regarding the alleged offense?
You do not. Remember, as a citizen of the United States, you are protected under the both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Constitution’s right to remain silent.
Do I have the right to defend myself against these accusations?
Absolutely. You are entitled to most of the rights of every other citizen under the law. This generally means that you have the right to refuse to answer interrogating questions, you have the right to refuse to volunteer any incriminating information, and you have the right to refuse to sign any document that may be used against you in a military or civilian proceeding.
Can I hire my own lawyer?
You can always hire your own lawyer. But, if you are facing court-martial charges, all of the Services by law will “detail” you a military defense attorney. Even if you hire a civilian lawyer, you are entitled to keep your military lawyer.
What does an investigation mean?
There are different types of investigations that commanders can choose from– CID, OSI or NCIS investigations, Administrative investigations, Boards of Inquiry, and a formal Article 32, USMJ, investigation.
The investigative agents of the military are intimidating me into confessing to the alleged offenses. I feel that they are 'pulling rank'. Am I required to answer their questions?
You should exercise your rights immediately and refrain from answering any questions, even though you may feel obligated to do so. Remember, not everyone in uniform is your friend. You always have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any questions. Also, remember that it is legal for the police / CID / OSI / NCIS to lie to you.
Can I get out on bail?
There is no system of bail in the military. If you are placed into confinement (jail), you are entitled to a “confinement hearing” and a lawyer to represent you at that hearing. You could be given a lesser form of pre-trial restraint, such as restriction to your Unit, Base, Port or Ship. In any event, you continue to receive full pay and allowances, and will have a job to return to if released. Family members who are dependent upon the service member also continue to receive the same housing and other benefits that other military dependents receive. These rules do not apply the same way if you are convicted and sentenced to confinement or a restriction. Your lawyer will be able to explain this based upon the specific circumstances of your case.
When can I go to trial?
If charges are brought against you, the trial must generally commence within 120 days of the charges being preferred or when the accused was placed into pre-trial confinement, whichever is earlier.
Can I appeal my Conviction?
The first opportunity at an appeal is through a request for Clemency from the one who authorized the court-martial in the first place, the convening authority. The convening authority can reduce the punishment or throw out the conviction. After that, depending on your sentence, you have the right to appeal both your conviction and your sentence, which could include appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.