The military operates differently from how civilian communities do when it comes to the reporting and investigating of alleged crimes. For most civilian communities, people report crimes to local law enforcement, who then conduct investigations before deciding whether or not there is enough to charge someone for a minor offense. If the offense is a major one, the police will report it to the district attorney (“DA”), who is then responsible for deciding whether or not to file charges. The DA must then decide how the cases will proceed in court, where they would be tried and those held responsible, punished.
Initial Investigatory Phase Differs in Military
This is not the same way in which the military conducts the initial investigatory phase of reported crimes. The President directs military commanders to maintain the law and order of their own communities – those over which they have authority. When someone reports a crime by a service member, law enforcement or criminal investigative agencies will often bring it to the attention of their commander. Other times, a servicemember will report a crime to a commander him or herself.
Commanders must make a “preliminary inquiry” often called (Rules for Courts-Martial) R.C.M. 303 Inquiries, into any allegations against a servicemember. The commander may conduct the inquiry or appoint someone else in his command to do so. In rare instances, he or she may request help from the civilian or military criminal investigative agencies to decide whether to press charges. It should be noted that these initial investigations tend to be informal, but the commander can require something more formal.
Resolving the Case
Once the preliminary inquiry has been completed, the commander must decide how to resolve the case. As with DA’s in civilian communities, commanders are responsible for deciding whether or not to press charges. The commander can decide anything from no action being warranted to seeking to discharge the servicemember from service – or anything in between. He or she also has non-judicial punishment authority under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The court-martial process is initiated once the commander issues the “preferral” of charges.
The Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC Helps Military Members in Colorado Who Have Been Charged with a Crime
The U.S. Government has an interest in obtaining a conviction as soon as possible, as it does not wish to gain negative publicity about one of its service members. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced military attorney as soon as possible.
If you are a military service member and have been charged with a crime under the UCMJ, the Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC can help. We proudly serve our military members, who sacrifice so much for our country. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!