The phrase “You have the right to remain silent” has become synonymous with arrests, thanks to countless portrayals in films and television. The right to remain silent is a powerful one, both in civilian and military contexts. It’s one of the Miranda rights granted to arrested civilians, making it a crucial part of the US justice system.
However, a different set of rights is granted within the military. They serve a similar purpose but within the unique framework of military service. Known as Article 31 rights, they derive from Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This provision ensures that military service members are informed of their rights before questioning occurs. Understanding these rights is crucial for any service member facing accusations under the UCMJ.
Understanding Article 31 Rights
Much like Miranda rights, Article 31 of the UCMJ outlines the rights of military personnel during interrogations or when accused of a crime. Military personnel must be informed of these rights before they are questioned or asked to make statements regarding their guilt or innocence. The rights defined under Article 31 include:
- The right to be informed of the nature of the accusation: Before any questioning begins, individuals must be told what they are accused of. This right ensures that service members understand why they are being questioned and what offenses they are suspected of committing.
- The right to remain silent: Service members have the right not to make any statement regarding the offense of which they are accused or suspected. They can choose to remain silent without facing any punitive action for exercising this right.
- The right to have an attorney: Individuals can consult an attorney before deciding whether to make any statements. They can also have an attorney present during questioning.
- The right to stop answering questions at any time: Service members can decide not to answer any further questions during an interrogation. This right continues even if they initially agreed to answer questions without an attorney present.
- Protection against compulsory self-incrimination: Under Article 31, no individual may be compelled to incriminate themselves or to answer any question that may tend to incriminate them. Any statement obtained in violation of this right—or through coercion, unlawful influence, or unlawful inducement—could be rendered involuntary and deemed inadmissible in court.
Biggest Differences Between Miranda Rights and Article 31 Rights
Unlike Miranda Rights, which are read upon arrest and only apply when a person is in custody, Article 31 rights apply regardless of custody status. They trigger the moment a military law enforcement agent suspects an individual of an offense and are read at the point of questioning. This early intervention provides additional protection for military personnel, ensuring they are aware of their rights from the onset of an investigation.
Unlike Miranda, Article 31 doesn’t necessitate informing service members about the right to an attorney before questioning. However, service members can always request legal counsel.
A significant aspect of Article 31 is the broad protection it offers, particularly with regards to preventing superior officers from coercing subordinates into answering questions, thereby maintaining a fair questioning environment. Under Article 31, accused service members are advised to politely decline answering questions without consulting an attorney first, thus ensuring their rights are protected.
Don’t Waive Your Rights!
It’s crucial to fully grasp your rights under Article 31 before making a statement. You can waive your rights only if you are fully informed and choose to do so. However, legal experienceds highly recommend exercising your rights vigorously, remaining silent and requesting an attorney, even if you believe you are innocent. After all, anything you say could turn into evidence used against you in court, jeopardizing your defense and leading to long-term legal consequences. Your rights are there for protection—don’t give them up easily.
Consulting with Legal Counsel
If you have been accused of a crime under the UCMJ, your military career, income, and reputation are on the line. Having knowledgeable legal counsel is indispensable when navigating the complex military justice system.
Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law, is an experienced military defense attorney with over a decade of experience. He draws from his background as a former enlisted Soldier and Army JAG officer to handle complex court-martial cases, administrative separation boards, and boards of inquiry for service members stationed worldwide. Mr. Jordan’s impressive track record makes him a reliable choice if you need legal representation. Call us toll-free at 800-580-8034 or 254-221-6411 today to speak directly with Mr. Jordan about your case.