Military Law FAQs
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, and non-judicial punishment for offenses.
Even though I am in the military and accused under the UCMJ, 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. The rights guaranteed under the US Constitution apply to everyone.
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 same constitutional rights!
Do I have the right to defend myself against these accusations?
Absolutely. You are entitled to the same rights as every citizen under the law. This 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 support a guilty conviction.
Can I hire my own lawyer?
You will probably be assigned a military JAG officer but you should also exercise your constitutional right to seek the advice of civilian counsel.
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 must exercise your rights immediately and refrain from answering any incriminating questions, even though you may feel obligated to do so. Remember, not everyone in uniform is your friend.
What does an investigation mean?
Military members do not have the same "fifth amendment" rights; however the military provides that an individual may not be tried by general court-martial unless there has been a thorough investigation. An investigation should protect you from baseless charges and open the door for recommended dismissal.
Can I get out on bail?
There is no system of bail in the military; however a service member does receive the same Fourth Amendment protections as he would as a civilian. A unique factor for military members is that even while in military confinement, an accused continues 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.
When can I go to trial?
If charges are brought against you, the trial must 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.