Understanding Criminal and Command Investigations

Command and criminal investigations in military law serve distinct purposes and involve different processes.

Command investigations are initiated when the military suspects a service member has committed some offense or wrongdoing. Criminal investigations are initiated to collect evidence related to alleged criminal offenses.  

Whether it is a command investigation or a criminal investigation, service members have rights under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). As soon as you believe you are under investigation, you need an experienced military criminal defense attorney to ensure your rights are not violated. 

Command Investigations vs Criminal Investigations

Command Investigations:

Purpose: Command investigations are conducted by a military commander to examine and address matters within their unit or command. These investigations are typically non-criminal and focus on training, morale, discipline, or other operational concerns.

Authority: The authority to conduct command investigations is derived from a commander’s inherent responsibility for the welfare and effectiveness of their unit.

Scope: These investigations are generally internal and aim to maintain good order and discipline within the military unit. They may involve misconduct, policy violations, or other matters impacting unit cohesion.

Criminal Investigations:

Purpose: Criminal investigations under military law are conducted to gather evidence related to alleged criminal offenses. These offenses can range from violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to civilian crimes committed by military personnel.

Authority: Criminal investigations are typically conducted by military law enforcement agencies, such as the Military Police or Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). These agencies operate independently of individual commands.

Scope: Criminal investigations focus on determining whether a crime has occurred, gathering evidence, and identifying suspects. If criminal charges are warranted, the case may proceed to a court-martial.

Command and Criminal Investigation Representation

CIs are not meant to be legal actions, but criminal litigation often arises. The CI of any unfavorable act by a military member may lead to exposure of a criminal act, especially if the individual submits to an interview by the investigator. This could quickly spiral out of your control when you face a hearing and trial.

A conviction of a military crime is severe and remains with you for the rest of your life. Military penalties can have lasting effects on career viability, both inside and outside the military. It’s important to obtain legal representation that understands the intricacies of military law. Our team of dedicated military defense lawyers can help.  

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Frequently Asked Questions

It is suggested you seek an attorney the moment you are notified of possible disciplinary action. There is a wide range of disciplinary action a service member might face, and the consequences of those actions vary greatly. A military law attorney can discuss the possible consequences, and how best to proceed in your particular case.  

Service members have the right to always remain silent. This right is listed in Article 31(b) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The natural inclination is to explain why you are not guilty of the allegation. However, the military will always try to use the statement against the service member. For this reason, we always advise clients to exercise their right to remain silent under Article 31(b). The military cannot use your right to remain silent against you.  

You always have the right to consult with an attorney. Depending of the type of investigation or disciplinary action, you may also have the right to have an attorney present with you. It is best to discuss your particular situation with a military law attorney to understand if that right applies to you. 

Yes, each one of the branches has a Court of Criminal Appeals. If you receive either a punitive discharge or in excess of 1 year of confinement, you have the right to an automatic appeal. Just like at the Court-Martial, you will have be detailed a military appellate defense counsel.  

Yes, most service members will be entitled to either an administrative separation board (or, if an officer, a Board of Inquiry). Each branch requires the service member to have been in a certain number of years before they can request to appear before a Board. If you are entitled to a Board, you will have the right to appear with a defense counsel, and present a defense before three Board members. 

 It depends on what the legal issue, and how you are able to challenge the legal issue. The military law attorneys at FPG have represented service members at trial that resulted in a not-guilty verdict. These clients were able to continue their military career as though the Court-Martial never happened.

Contact A Command and Criminal Investigations Attorney