Not all Articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice are punitive.
For example, Article 31 prohibits Government agents subject to the UCMJ
from subjecting Servicemembers to compulsory self-incrimination. Statements
obtained through force are prohibited and not admissible. Take a moment
and read your Article 31 rights
Would you still answer questions from Government agents conducting investigations?
Many Servicemembers do, even after they are advised of their Article 31
rights. This may lead to several issues later on.
- The Servicemember may voluntarily incriminate oneself by admitting to serious
misconduct which would otherwise require Government agents to learn about
from another source. During the prosecution, the statements provided by
the Servicemember will be used against him or her.
- The Servicemember may voluntarily incriminate oneself by admitting to other
misconduct. Often, a Government agent may be investigating one allegation,
but receives an admission for another misconduct. Even if the initial
allegation proves unsubstantiated, now the Servicemember will face punishment
for the misconduct he or she admitted to.
- The Servicemember may voluntarily make statements and later the Servicemember
could be charged with making a false official statement. Even if the initial
investigation does not reveal actionable facts, now the Government agent
has another charge to use against the Servicemember.
- The Servicemember may voluntarily make statements in response to offers
by Government agents to show leniency or give a special deal. Most often,
such Government agents are not authorized to make any deals. By law, they
may trick Servicemembers into making statements by, i.e., telling them
that their best friend said that the Servicemember did it, that they found
the 'missing' evidence, or almost anything else.
There is a reason as to why the UCMJ Article 31 right is there for Servicemembers.
Do not hesitate to use it. When questioned, invoke your rights under Article
31 to avoid the above scenarios and other ones. The attorneys at The Federal
Practice Group are prepared to advise you on your rights. This information
does not constitute legal advice and does not replace an attorney-client