What are your Article 31 UCMJ rights?

Posted by: William Cassara On: December 31st, 2011

1. No one subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice may compel any person to incriminate himself or to answer any question the answer that may tend to incriminate him.

2. No person subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice may interrogate, or request any statement from a person suspected of an offense without first informing him of the nature of the accusation, that he does not have to made a statement regarding the offense, and that any statement may be used against him as evidence in a trial by court-martial.

If you are suspected of a crime, you have the following rights:

  • To be told what criminal act you are suspected or accused of doing.
  • To be told that you have the right to remain silent.
  • To be told that any statements you do make (oral or written) could be used against you.

That's Article 31, UCMJ, plain and simple. Note - you should not talk to the command or to investigators without first talking to an attorney.

If the command or investigators (CID, AFOSI, NCIS, etc.) try to speak with you: Say:

"I do not waive my right to remain silent; I want to stop this interview; I want to talk to a lawyer; I want to leave."

They may still try to get you to stay and engage in "chit-chat" or "background information." Say:

"I do not waive my right to silence; I want to stop this interview; I want to talk to a lawyer; I want to leave."

Under no circumstances should you make an oral or written statement. If you say anything at all it could be used against you. It doesn't matter if you "only say" something and then decline to put it in writing or sign the investigators written statement. What you say can be used. Even if you say nothing more than "I didn't do it" they can charge you with making a false official statement.

If you say anything to a friend, supervisor, or other non-law enforcement person, that statement might be used against you. This area of military law can be confusing so the best course of action is to say and do nothing to anyone but your attorney.

Investigators are not your friend. They are there to get you to convict yourself or lead them to evidence that will help convict you. They have been trained on how to appear to be your friend and in other psychological techniques. Frequently, clients will tell us that they simply told the investigator what they wanted to hear, in order to leave. Do not do this. Do not speak to them at all without an attorney present.

If you are in custody or in a situation where you are not free to leave, then you have the additional right to speak with an attorney.

Say: "I want to stop this interview."

Say: "I want to talk to a lawyer."

Say: "I want to leave."

If, despite the advice above you do decide to talk, understand that the law does not give you the right to lie. If you do make a statement which is false it is possible you will be prosecuted for making a false official statement, false swearing, or obstruction of justice. Therefore, the best course of action is to say nothing at all without an attorney present.

Location : Know Your Rights