What is a Board of Inquiry?

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A board of inquiry, sometimes referred to as a show-cause board, is an involuntary separation board for officers who are on notice of an “other than honorable discharge” or for those who have served for several years after their commission. This board is responsible for analyzing events, reviewing allegations, and investigating any issues pertaining to a military member’s performance of duty.

Boards of inquiry are generally considered to be less serious than court-martials. However, it’s still extremely important that those who are the subject of an inquiry take it seriously. 

Before one is subject to the board, he or she will usually receive non-judicial punishments, including letters of reprimand. Once it is determined that a board of inquiry is needed, it will generally convene within a 90-day period of time.

An officer’s conduct may be related to a specific event, often one that negatively impacted the officer’s performance or even the performance of a military mission. Should the board of inquiry determine that the officer is no longer fit to continue his or her service, they will be relieved through an administrative separation and face the end of their military career. 

How Does a Board of Inquiry Function?

A board of inquiry is composed of three officer-members (senior to the officer being investigated) who are responsible for listening to evidence and deciding whether or not it is considered to be misconduct. Both sides have the opportunity to present evidence in their favor. The government is represented by a senior military attorney called a “Recorder.” 

For the board to determine that there is misconduct, it must find this to be by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not, 51% or higher). 

If the board determines that misconduct did, indeed, occur, it must then decide whether the service member should be discharged from the service. Should the board recommend a separation, it must also suggest by which characterization the service member should be discharged: Honorable, General Under Honorable Conditions, or Other Than Honorable.

What Can You Do When Faced with a Notification of Elimination?

If you receive a notification of elimination, there are a few things that you can do:

  1. Submit a resignation in advance to the board;
  2. Respond formally in writing and request that the decision be modified; or
  3. Request to make a personal appearance with counsel (if the abovementioned written request is not approved).

An officer generally has up to 30 days to respond to the initial notification of elimination. 

After the Board of Inquiry

While the rules differ among the different branches of service, generally, if the board determines that you are not guilty the case will be closed and finished. If the board determines that you shouldn’t be discharged this also generally ends the case. However, while rare, sometimes the government may forward the matter.

If the board determines that the officer should face a discharge, he or she can go to the General Court-Martial Convening Authority (GCMCA), which has the power to overrule findings against the officer, improve the conditions of the officer’s discharge, or suspend the discharge for good conduct. 

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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!

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