Have you been contacted by CID, NCIS, or another military investigative organization? As soon as you learn you are being investigated for a crime while serving in the military, you should contact an attorney to defend your rights and guide you through the legal process. In the meantime, learn more about your rights as a U.S. military service member so you can exercise them when the time comes.
Military Investigative Organizations
Each military branch has a dedicated organization responsible for investigating threats to national security and allegations against service members.
U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID)
CID is the primary federal law enforcement agency of the U.S. Department of the Army. Its primary purpose is to investigate felonies and other serious violations of military law. Crimes that prompt CID investigations include:
- Sexual assault
- Armed robbery
- Procurement fraud
- Computer crimes
- Counter-drug operations
- War crimes
CID does not charge individuals with crimes — rather, it investigates allegations and hands over official findings to the appropriate command and legal authority to take the next steps in the litigation process. CID special agents may be military personnel or appointed civilian personnel. In addition to conducting investigations, CID provides counter-terrorism support, criminal intelligence support, force protection, forensic lab investigative support, and protective services for Army leadership.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS)
NCIS is the federal agency in charge of investigating criminal, terrorist, and international intelligence offenses committed by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps service members. In 1999, the U.S. Marine Corps Criminal Investigation Division (USMC CID) was integrated into NCIS. (While NCIS handles most investigations, USMC CID still exists to investigate misdemeanors and felonies that don’t fall under NCIS jurisdiction.)
NCIS typically investigates crimes serious enough to result in imprisonment of more than one year upon conviction. Examples of crimes that prompt NCIS investigations include:
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated assault
- Child abuse
- Robbery or burglary
- Theft of government property
- Death of a service member outside of combat
The vast majority of NCIS personnel are civilian, half of whom are special agents. NCIS agents frequently coordinate with other U.S. government agencies and have a presence on Navy vessels and in more than 40 countries.
U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI)
OSI provides independent criminal investigative, counterintelligence, and protective service operations while reporting directly to the Secretary of the Air Force. It aims to protect the national security of the United States by identifying, investigating, and neutralizing threats to the Air Force, Space Force, and Department of Defense. OSI agents can be Air Force officers, enlisted service members, or appointed civilians.
OSI investigates any illegal activity that undermines the mission of the Air Force, including:
- Crimes against property
- Violence against people
- Computer hacking
- Acquisition fraud
- Drug use and distribution
- Financial misdeeds
- Military desertion
Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS)
CGIS investigates crimes where the Coast Guard has an interest. The organization’s purpose is to conduct criminal investigations, collect intelligence, and provide other services that protect the welfare of Coast Guard personnel and the Department of Homeland Security. Agents include active duty members, reserve enlisted members, warrant officers, and appointed civilians.
The investigative function of CGIS is similar to that of a major crimes unit at a civilian police department. The types of internal Coast Guard crimes that warrant CGIS investigation include:
CGIS also conducts external investigations into maritime-related crimes, including:
- Migrant and drug smuggling
- False distress calls
- Environmental law violations
Your Rights When Being Investigated
Most people are familiar with Miranda rights, but these apply only to civilians. Military members have a different set of rights outlined in Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Here’s a look at your rights when being investigated by CID, NCIS, OSI, or CGIS.
You Have the Right to Understand the Charges Against You
When you are accused of a crime, arrested, or brought in for questioning, you have the right to know the charges you’re facing. If you’re unsure why you’re involved in an investigation, always ask for clarification so you can take action to protect your rights.
You Have the Right to Remain Silent
It may be tempting to tell your side of the story, but if you waive your rights to remain silent, you are no longer on a level playing field with the prosecution. Anything you say or write down can be used against you. Although investigating officers may seem to be on your side, they are not required to tell you what evidence they have and can hide information from you if they wish. Their goal is to get you to say something self-incriminating, so it’s in your best interest to stay silent when arrested. Firmly but politely request to stop answering questions until you have a military lawyer by your side.
You Have the Right to Refuse a Search
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, the authorities may ask for your consent to search your home, vehicle, or the contents of your cell phone. Even if you have nothing to hide, do not consent to a search. This forces agents to obtain a search authorization, which may limit the places they can look.
You Have the Right to an Attorney
Vocally invoke this right the moment you come in contact with investigating officers. Depending on the alleged crime, you may have the option to settle for free legal representation. However, it’s far better to hire a highly trained and experienced attorney with years of military criminal defense expertise.
When you hire an attorney, you’ll have a military law professional by your side throughout the investigation process and the court martial if your case goes to trial. Remember, it’s important to be completely honest with your defense counsel about what happened. After all, your attorney is your advocate and will do whatever’s necessary to get your case dismissed or the charges against you reduced.
Protect Your Rights—Call an Experienced Military Attorney
The founding lawyer of Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law is a former Army JAG officer with an in-depth understanding of the UCMJ and how it pertains to enlisted service members accused of committing crimes. In the years since our private practice started, we have defended hundreds of military service members stationed worldwide, with an excellent track record for obtaining favorable outcomes for our clients.