Your Legal Rights When Suspected or Accused of a Military Crime

The average military member is aware that they have legal rights yet few people outside of the legal realm understand the specifics of legal rights when you are suspected or accused of committing a crime. Even if you are not charged with a crime, it is in your interest to develop and retain a complete understanding of your legal rights. Above all, you should not waive your rights. Let’s take a look at precisely what rights exist in the context of a criminal charge.

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The Breakdown of Your Rights

You have the right to remain silent following a criminal charge. You also have the right to discuss the matter with the best court martial attorney possible. Furthermore, you have the right to stop or terminate an interrogation performed by police or other state or federal government agents. You even have the right to depart the interrogation site whenever desired. If CID, NCIS, OSI, CGIS, the police, or other agents of the local, state, or federal government request permission to search your person, your vehicle, or your property, you have the right to refuse that search.

The United States Supreme Court’s current case law states those accused of a crime have the right to remain silent. Such individuals are also empowered with the right to retain legal counsel for defense purposes. However, to exercise the right to remain silent, the accused party should state “I want a lawyer” and “I will not speak. I exercise my legal right to remain silent” in those exact words or as close to that wording as possible. It is worth noting the law states the discussions about rights are ambiguous, and the investigators do not necessarily have to cease questioning the suspect. However, you have the right to remain silent even if the questions continue.

Take Full Advantage of Your Rights

Plenty of people waive their rights even after being arrested, charged, and passed through the justice systems several times in the past. This is unfortunate as there is absolutely no reason ever to waive your rights. Waiving rights provides the police and prosecution with a considerable advantage in their quest to prove your supposed guilt for a criminal offense.

If CID, NCIS, OSI, CGIS, or the police have already interrogated you, you must meet with an experienced military defense attorney. This is your opportunity to engage in a productive meeting in which you provide a comprehensive account of exactly what occurred in the supposed crime context. It is in your interest to write down your account, detailing which individuals were present, what was stated, and what was done. Ideally, your write-up will be extensively detailed and written down or said to your court martial attorney as soon as possible. The sad truth is your memory will gradually fade, making it that much more challenging to remember the subtleties of the incident, ultimately weakening your case. This is precisely why it makes sense to take detailed notes as soon as possible following the charge. Do not show these notes to anyone but your legal representative.

It is also in your interest to mark the notes or other written document detailing the incident with large letters that state: Attorney-Client Work Product. This clear marking goes a long way in preserving the confidentiality of the information, ensuring no one else reads the text and potentially uses it against you in a court of law.

Such a record of precisely what went down during the incident in question will prove that much more helpful if you are in the military and are court-martialed. Provide your military court martial defense attorney with this information. It might help prove your innocence. It may ensure you are not punished or receive a lesser punishment than would have been applied if you did not provide as much information as possible to your criminal defense attorney.

Your Rights in the Context of Searches

You do not have to provide consent for a search of your person, automobile, or other property. Without speaking with an experience court martial defense lawyer, you should never consent to such search requests. Consent is requested simply because it is advantageous to the prosecution to do so. If the supposed crime was allegedly committed by a military member and the suspect refuses to consent to the search, the justification for such a search will have to be presented to a magistrate. The magistrate may deny the request, meaning there is even less reason to consent to any search.

Though few know it, it is possible to terminate your consent for any search whenever desired. The only exception is if the officer provides a search warrant. If the officer states he or she has such a warrant, request that the warrant is displayed for your review. If a warrant is shown, inspect it to determine if it is accurate and legitimate. If the officer does not have a search warrant, request that they depart the premises until they obtain a warrant.

Furthermore, if the officer claims to have a warrant yet refuses to show it to you, write down notes about the interaction details so you can report them as accurately as possible to your criminal defense attorney. If the officer violates protocol or breaks the law when attempting to search you or your property, the stage is set for the charge to be dismissed or significantly reduced.

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