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Military Justice 101 - Part VI

Pretrial Confinement & Article 32 Invesigations

(Page 3)

Rights Of the Accused. The accused at an Article 32 investigation has several important rights.

The accused also has a right to waive an Article 32 investigation and such waiver may be made a condition of a plea bargain. If the investigation is not waived, the accused is entitled to be present throughout the investigative hearing (unlike a civilian grand jury proceeding). At the hearing, the accused has the right to be represented by an appointed military defense counsel or may request an individual military defense counsel by name and may hire a civilian attorney at his or her own expense. Again, unlike a civilian grand jury proceeding, the servicemember, through the member’s attorney, has the following rights: to call witnesses; to present evidence; to cross-examine witnesses called during the investigation; to compel the attendance of reasonably available military witnesses; to ask the investigating officer to invite relevant civilian witnesses to provide testimony during the investigation; and, to testify, although he or she cannot be compelled to do so.

The accused must be served with a copy of the investigative report and associated evidence. Within five days of receipt, the accused may submit objections or comments regarding the report to the commander who directed the investigation.

The Article 32 investigation has often been compared to both the civilian preliminary hearing and the civilian grand jury since it is functionally similar to both. All three of these proceedings are theoretically similar in that each is concerned with determining whether there is sufficient probable cause (reasonable grounds) to believe a crime was committed and whether the person accused of the crime committed it. The Article 32 investigation, however, is broader in scope and more protective of the accused. As such, it is not completely analogous to either proceeding.

A civilian defendant at a preliminary hearing may have the right to counsel, the right to cross-examine witnesses against him or her, and the right to introduce evidence in his or her behalf. An Article 32 investigation is considered broader in scope because it serves as a mechanism for discovery by the defense, and because it supplies the convening authority (the decision authority) with information on which to make a disposition decision. While a decision by a magistrate at a preliminary hearing is generally final, the investigating officer’s decision is merely advisory.

Unless waived, a civilian defendant may be prosecuted in a federal court for an offense punishable by death, imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, or imprisonment at hard labor only after indictment by a grand jury. (An indictment is a formal written accusation or charge). This Fifth Amendment constitutional right does not apply to state prosecutions - although some state constitutions and statutes have provisions that are analogous to the Fifth Amendment and require an indictment by a grand jury for a felony or other defined offenses. Accordingly, if a service member is tried in a state court, his or her right to indictment by grand jury is dependent upon the particular state’s procedures.

The grand jury is a closed, secret proceeding, in which only the prosecution is represented. The body of jurors decides to indict based upon evidence frequently provided solely by the prosecutor. This may even happen without the accused even having knowledge of the proceeding. Inspection or disclosure of the transcript of the proceeding after indictment is also, generally, severely limited. Obviously, by his absence, a defendant is precluded from the opportunity to confront and cross-examine witnesses, to present evidence, call witnesses in his or her favor, or even to speak for him or herself. If a defendant is called before a grand jury, he or she has no right to have a lawyer present through or at any other part of the proceeding. If a grand jury does not indict, the decision is generally final and charges against the defendant are usually dismissed.

The Article 32 investigation, in contrast, is generally an open proceeding that may be attended by the public. Unlike a grand jury proceeding, the accused has the right to be present at the investigation; the right to be represented by an attorney; the right to present evidence; the right to review a copy of the investigative report as well as the several other important rights discussed above. Again, the recommendation of the Article 32 investigating officer is not final - it is only advisory.

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Information Courtesy of United States Marine Corps


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