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ADC - Article 31 rights

Nov. 17, 2006 PRINT | E-MAIL
AREA DEFENSE COUNSEL
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La.
FACT SHEET ON ADVICE FOR MEMBERS ADVISED OF THEIR UCMJ ARTICLE 31 RIGHTS

The following information is provided to our clients who have been read their legal rights under UCMJ Article 31. Read this information very carefully - it is intended to familiarize you with your specific rights and the protections they give you. After reading this, you should be able to make an informed decision, with the assistance of your lawyer, on whether or not to answer any questions or make any statements regarding your situation. This handout is not intended to be comprehensive, but is merely a starting point for your understanding. We strongly encourage you to ask either your defense counsel or the defense paralegal any questions you might have about the information in this handout, or about anything related to your case and our representation.

1. Your Rights

Military members have the same rights as all other citizens against self-incrimination, under the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In fact, military members enjoy even more protection under the Manual for Court-Martial and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This is because UCMJ 31 guarantees that no military member, not just law enforcement personnel, may:

(a) compel a person to incriminate himself or to answer any question the answer to which might incriminate him;

(b) interrogate or request any statement from an accused or a person suspected of an offense, without first informing him of the nature of the accusation, and advising him that he does not have to make any statement regarding the offense of which he is accused or suspected, and that any statement made by him may be uses as evidence against him; or

(c) compel a person to make a statement or produce immaterial or degrading evidence against him.

2. What Your Rights Mean

You do not have to cooperate and provide a statement or answer any questions. Neither the police, the OSI, your commander, supervisor, first sergeant, or anyone can order you to provide a statement, or take any action against you just because you choose to remain silent! Your career will not be automatically over, and you are not making the situation any worse merely by exercising your legal rights.

In most cases, you should not make any oral or written statements until you have first talked with your defense attorney. It usually helps to discuss the situation with a lawyer first, so that you fully understand your rights and the potential effects of waiving those rights. After speaking to the ADC, you may decide to cooperate after all, or you may decide to continue to remain silent. Either way, it costs nothing to consult with your lawyer before you decide what to do.

3. What You Should Do

Say the four magic words, "I want a lawyer." Once you do this, all questioning must stop immediately. Even if you previously waived your rights and began answering questions, you may invoke your Article 31 rights at any time.

Call the ADC office immediately: As soon as you are read your Article 31 rights and choose to remain silent and speak to an attorney, call us for an appointment or a telephone consultation. We may not be available when you call, especially if it is outside of normal duty hours. In an emergency, the ADC can be reached at home through the base Command Post. Leave a message on our office answering machine. Be assured that we will return your call within the next duty day, and don't do or say anything until you have spoken to us.

Remain silent (to everyone) until you have spoken to your lawyer: Do not tell anyone, including your spouse, roommate, friends, supervisor, anyone, about the situation. You may be just itching to talk about it, but remember that anyone you talk to about your case can be called as a witness against you. People you talk to could even be working as confidential informants for the law enforcement authorities. No one on base, not even the chaplain, is a safe person to talk to, except the ADC - period. That is because your lawyer will hold what you tell him in the strictest confidence, protected by the attorney-client privilege, and no one can compel him to disclose what you tell him without your permission.

4. Don't Lie to Your Lawyer (Or Anyone Else)!

When you come to see us, we can only be as helpful as you are truthful. You must tell us as many details about the incident as possible. If you misinterpret or omit something, it could hurt your defense. If, after discussing the situation with your attorney, you decide to make a statement to the authorities, it should be nothing but the truth. You will only dig yourself a deeper hole if you swear to a statement that is not true.