Investigation of Military Offenses

Military report of misconducts

When a servicemember has reportedly committed an offense, the chain of command normally finds out either by civilian law enforcement notification, from notification through the military channels (commonly referred to as “blotter reports”), a report from an alleged victim, or through direct observation of the alleged misconduct. After receiving notification, the command will normally conduct an inquiry pursuant to R.C.M. 303.

Court-Martial Attorneys

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Commander’s Inquiry

The inquiry by the command may range from an examination of the possible charges and an investigative report to a more extensive investigation depending on the offense(s) alleged and the complexity of the case. The investigation may be conducted by members of the command or, in more complex cases, military and civilian law enforcement officials.

Commander’s Options

Once the investigation is complete, the commander can choose to dispose of the charges by:

    • Taking no action;
    • Initiating administrative action (which can include separation from the Army);
    • Imposing non-judicial punishment (a form of punishment that is not considered a conviction, but can result of loss of rank, pay, and other privileges);
    • Preferring charges (the process of formally charging a soldier with and offense for resolution at court-martial); OR
    • Forwarding to a higher authority for preferral of charges (R.C.M. 306(c)).

Preferral of Charges

The first formal step in a court-martial, preferral of charges, consists of drafting a charge sheet containing the charges and specifications against the accused. A specification is a plain and concise statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged. R.C.M. 307(c)(3). The M.C.M. contains model specifications to assist trial counsel and the chain of command in drafting the specifications. The charge sheet must be signed by the accuser under oath before a commissioned officer authorized to administer oaths. R.C.M. 307(b). Any person subject to the UCMJ may prefer charges as the accuser. R.C.M. 307(a).

Referral of Charges

Once charges have been preferred they may be referred to one of three types of courts-martial: summary, special, or general. R.C.M. 401(c). The process of “referral” is simply the order that states that charges against an accused will be tried by a specific court-martial. The determination of which level of court-martial to refer the charge(s) to is made by the Court Martial Convening Authority (CMCA). R.C.M. 504. The CMCA is an appropriate level of commander who, in consultation with the Staff Judge Advocate’s Office, makes her determination. Usually, the seriousness of the offenses alleged determines the type of court-martial.

LAW ENFORCEMENT INVESTIGATIONS – August 2013

From Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 3-39.12

Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 3-39.12 is aligned with Field Manual (FM) 3-39, the Military Police Corps Regiment’s operational doctrine, and Army Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (ATTP) 3-39.10. It is intended as a guide and toolkit for military police investigators, USACIDC special agents (SAs), and military police Soldiers conducting law enforcement (LE) and LE investigations. It also serves to educate military police commanders and staff on LE investigations capabilities, enabling a more thorough understanding of those capabilities. This increased understanding facilitates staff planning, resource allocation, and the ability to articulate LE investigative capabilities and requirements to supported commanders and organizations.

Introduction

Whether supporting military law enforcement activities in support of bases and base camps; maintaining and restoring order in an effort to stabilize an area of operations (AO); providing training and support to HN police; or supporting humanitarian relief operations, Army military law enforcement investigators and other military police Soldiers provide capabilities that are invaluable to the supported commander. Recent history and experience have expanded the Army’s understanding that military law enforcement investigative skills are relevant and arguably critical to success in the operational theater, especially during the conduct of stability tasks. Military law enforcement investigations are correctly focused on activities conducted to solve criminal cases, investigate incidents or accidents, and provide evidence sufficient to achieve a successful administrative recourse or conviction within the military justice system. However, the Army has identified the need for investigative skills, especially in the areas of evidence collection and forensic analysis, as a critical requirement in combating the criminal and hybrid threats that operate on the modern battlefield. USACIDC SAs have always investigated incidents of war crimes as well as deaths or other serious or sensitive incidents occurring in a deployed operational environment. Investigative activities, training, and doctrine for all other Army law enforcement elements were largely confined to the installation or base at home station. 

The requirement for investigative skill sets to support decisive action has led to a requirement for revised doctrine and associated training for military police investigators (MPIs) and other military police personnel that addresses the investigative capabilities and application of law enforcement investigative skills to support decisive action. Investigation of criminal activity requires deliberate, methodical, and disciplined actions and analysis on the part of law enforcement investigators and supporting personnel. These skills and the associated knowledge and experience can be applied in all environments. They are critical to successful law enforcement activities directly associated with a criminal investigation and can also be critical to the support of military operations—to include site exploitation, HN police training, and collection and analysis of evidence to attack criminal and other threat networks. 

ATP 3-39.12 is a full revision from the superseded FM 3-19.13 and FM 19-25. The revision has been driven by changes in the operational environment, available and emerging technologies, and Army and joint doctrine. This manual builds on the previous version and applies collective knowledge and lessons learned through recent operations and shifts in doctrinal focus and operational requirements. It is rooted in time-tested fundamentals and technology, while accommodating new technologies and emerging mission sets. 

ATP 3-39.12 is written primarily to be a toolkit for military law enforcement investigators; however, it acknowledges current and likely operational environments and the requirement for the skill sets and capabilities of Army law enforcement investigators and the technologies they employ. USACIDC SAs, MPIs, TMCIs, and military police Soldiers must be knowledgeable and proficient in accepted investigative techniques, practices, and technologies while understanding how those capabilities apply to criminal and traffic investigations and applications supporting decisive action that fall outside the scope of direct criminal investigations in the traditional sense. They must be prepared to operate in any operational environment and apply their craft in support of the commander while dealing with a wide range of threats and other influences.ATP 3-39.12 provides specific techniques required for Army military police personnel and USACIDC SAs to conduct successful law enforcement investigations. It also provides a descriptive framework of law enforcement investigative organizations, personnel, and capabilities. This manual also provides military police commanders and their staffs with a thorough understanding of Army law enforcement investigative capabilities and their application, enabling informed planning and succinct articulation of general law enforcement investigative capabilities to supported commanders and their staffs. This doctrine will assist Army leaders and trainers at branch schools to plan, integrate, and teach law enforcement investigative capabilities and applications in support of Army, joint, and interagency operations. 

Where appropriate, the manual describes nationally recognized methods of investigation and evidence examination adopted from the Department of Justice (DOJ); the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI); the National Institute of Justice (NIJ); and the United States Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory (USACIL) and other law enforcement agencies. In addition to the techniques described in this manual, Army law enforcement personnel are encouraged to seek guidance on police and investigative matters from other approved official law enforcement sources. Additionally, this manual— 

  • Incorporates terminology changes consistent with Army Doctrinal Publication (ADP) 3-0, Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 3-0, and other recent doctrinal changes.
  • Expands law enforcement investigations doctrine to include collision (traffic accident) investigations.
  • Incorporates the latest task analysis and synchronizes law enforcement investigations doctrine and task alignment to the Army Universal Task List (AUTL) in FM 7-15.
  • Describes Army law enforcement investigation capabilities and integration in support of Army operations including techniques for properly handling evidence and the establishment of evidence response teams, forensics laboratory support, and building HN police investigative capabilities.
  • Applies lessons learned through the conduct of recent operational experiences.
  • Expands on the investigations, evidence collection, and forensics analysis framework established in ATTP 3-39.10 and FM 3-39.
  • Incorporates emerging technology updates to material from other relevant publications and sources.

This manual is organized into thirteen chapters with eleven appendixes to provide additional details on selected topics. Chapter 1 describes the doctrinal framework for law enforcement investigations including organizations relevant to criminal and collision investigations. Chapters 2 through 6 are focused on collection of evidence pertinent to investigative efforts. Chapters 7 through 12 address investigative considerations for specific types of criminal investigations. Chapter 13 covers collision investigations. A brief description of each chapter and appendix is provided below:

  • Chapter 1 describes law enforcement investigations capabilities and support. It provides a framework for understanding the application of law enforcement investigative capabilities and describes the various law enforcement investigative organizations, personnel, and specific capabilities. It introduces revised nomenclature for deployable forensic organizational elements consistent with recent organizational changes.
  • Chapter 2 describes the collection of physical evidence. It provides detailed techniques and considerations for collecting and preserving various types of physical evidence under various environments and conditions. It includes information on specific forensic analysis capabilities and requirements for successful evidence processing.
  • Chapter 3 describes methods, strategies, and considerations for conducting interviews and law enforcement interrogations. It introduces the forensic experiential trauma interview (FETI) and associated physiological evidence.
  • Chapter 4 discusses crime scene processing and documentation. It also addresses analysis and reconstruction of crime scenes.
  • Chapter 5 focuses on law enforcement investigation surveillance activities. It describes the varying types of surveillance, methods, and considerations for planning and conducting law enforcement-related surveillance.
  • Chapter 6 discusses undercover activities supporting law enforcement investigations. It addresses planning, preliminary investigations, personnel selection, suspect contacts, and other considerations.
  • Chapter 7 provides investigative techniques specific to death investigations.
  • Chapter 8 provides investigative information regarding assault and robbery investigations.
  • Chapter 9 discusses investigation of sex crimes.
  • Chapter 10 focuses on investigating crimes against property. It also includes a discussion of arson and explosion investigations.
  • Chapter 11 provides information regarding fraud investigations and associated economic crimes.
  • Chapter 12 discusses investigation of drug offenses.
  • Chapter 13 addresses techniques for collision investigations (also called traffic accident investigations). It discusses requirements for collision investigations, collision photography, and traffic accident reports. The other portions of FM 19-25 were previously incorporated into ATTP 3-39.10, including discussion of traffic planning, traffic control and enforcement, and traffic assessments. FM 19-25 will be rescinded upon publication of this manual.
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