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Your Right To Remain Silent - UCMJ Article 31 - Use It

Written by: Federal Practice Group
Written by: Federal Practice Group

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Not all Articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice are punitive. For example, Article 31 prohibits Government agents subject to the UCMJ from subjecting Servicemembers to compulsory self-incrimination. Statements obtained through force are prohibited and not admissible.

Would you still answer questions from Government agents conducting investigations? Many Servicemembers do, even after they are advised of their Article 31 rights. This may lead to several issues later on.

  1. The Servicemember may voluntarily incriminate oneself by admitting to serious misconduct which would otherwise require Government agents to learn about from another source. During the prosecution, the statements provided by the Servicemember will be used against him or her.
  2. The Servicemember may voluntarily incriminate oneself by admitting to other misconduct. Often, a Government agent may be investigating one allegation, but receives an admission for another misconduct. Even if the initial allegation proves unsubstantiated, now the Servicemember will face punishment for the misconduct he or she admitted to.
  3. The Servicemember may voluntarily make statements and later the Servicemember could be charged with making a false official statement. Even if the initial investigation does not reveal actionable facts, now the Government agent has another charge to use against the Servicemember.
  4. The Servicemember may voluntarily make statements in response to offers by Government agents to show leniency or give a special deal. Most often, such Government agents are not authorized to make any deals. By law, they may trick Servicemembers into making statements by, i.e., telling them that their best friend said that the Servicemember did it, that they found the 'missing' evidence, or almost anything else.

There is a reason as to why the UCMJ Article 31 right is there for Servicemembers. Do not hesitate to use it. When questioned, invoke your rights under Article 31 to avoid the above scenarios and other ones. The attorneys at The Federal Practice Group are prepared to advise you on your rights. This information does not constitute legal advice and does not replace an attorney-client consultation.

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