Accused of a crime? What do you do? What is about to happen? If you have ever wondered what to expect if you are under investigation in the military, this might help. If you are accused of a crime you need to know what is about to happen. This is a practical illustration of what is really going to go on both in your life and in your career.
There are several types of investigations in the military including those relating to injuries and deaths, property loss and destruction, criminal activity, and safety violations and concerns. This article focuses on the criminal investigation aspect and how it affects the member. Differing types of investigation bring on different types of investigators. An investigation may include the military police and specialized criminal investigative service organizations, depending on the case. For example, the U.S. Army uses the Criminal Investigation Command (CIC) to conduct criminal investigations of U.S. Army service members, the Air Force uses the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), the Navy uses the Naval Criminal Investigative Command (NCIS) and the Coast Guard uses the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) and the Army used the Criminal Investigation Command.
For internal matters such as injury and deaths (other than criminal), safety violations, property loss and destruction, safety violations and concerns, or some other Commander Directed Investigation. These types of investigations are conducted internally through the appointment of an in-house investigator. Although these investigations are not professional investigators they do have guidance from the local JAG and someone accused of a violation of regulation or law would have the same protections as someone that is accused of a criminal violation. If an accused, you may experience the same problems or issues as someone facing a court-martial.
It’s also important that military members know and understand their legal rights and obligations when it comes to a situation where they find themselves under investigation. I’ll focus on those in a later article but for now let’s focus on the practical, everyday issues once someone comes under investigation.
If you have ever been subject to any type of military investigation you understand what a ‘snail’s pace’ is. It’s not unheard of for these investigations to take so much time that the individual under investigation has or should have already been discharged after completing their enlistment. Once the investigation comes to the attention of the military member’s upward chain of command the military member is usually frozen from any assignment or transfer. They are placed in some type of job outside of his usual type of work and that work is physically outside of his primary work area. The ‘temporary assignment’ is often meaningless in regard to what he has been trained for. Let’s face it, the military has generally never been known for moving rapidly when it comes to issues other than warfighting.
In other words, the accused may end up performing work that is reserved for other people that are in a casual or nonproductive status for an extended period of time. I’ve had clients that were active war-fighting officers who were placed as the second-in-command of a small motor pool operation having little authority or responsibility or a high-profile physician (one of 4 specially qualified officers in the USAF) charged with a sexual offense who was placed into a job of administrative duties and not allowed to see patients for months on end (over 3 years and 9 months total!). I believe in fairness and quality investigations but this takes a tremendous toll on the accused.
Not only is the member’s professional capabilities affected (imagine how not being able to treat patients for over three years affects a physician’s treatment protocol) but he’s often treated in silence by his former comrades. No one wants to associate with someone accused of a crime, even though they were best buddies before the allegations came to light.
Families suffer also as the wife/husband of the accused is going to be ostracized and shunned by (former) friends and neighbors. Children are no different and we know kids can sometimes be cruel.
The entire process of going through a court-martial process and the processes leading up to it are physically and mentally draining. Even though my primary responsibilities are developing a comprehensive defense investigation on behalf of the client, many of my responsibilities are done when we physically go into that court-martial. I often assist in court by acting as a sounding board for the client as well as protecting him from being approached by outsiders that could negatively affect the trial. I’ve had experiences where family or friends of the participants in court have (intentionally or unintentionally) approached other participants with information that resulted in a closed hearing about witness or jury tampering. Things are crazy enough without the added issues brought on by this kind of outside influence.
Even if the military member is found not guilty, he’s going to live with the stigma forever. Once indexed into the federal system anytime there is a reason for a background to be conducted on the member there will be a record of the charges against him. Sometimes he’s guilty in the eyes of the reader even if not found so by a court. Sometimes they just can’t wash their hands of the charges enough.
It’s important that military members have someone they can trust. Someone that’s been in the military system for a career as a practitioner of the military and criminal justice system who can help guide them, while at the same time being able to conduct a thorough investigation that may well result in their acquittal.
See what happens next by reading Accused Of A Crime, part 2.
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