Q: A Military Investigative Service (Such As NCIS) Wants Me To Talk With Them, Or My Command Has Ordered Me To Talk To Them. What Should I Do?
A: CALL US IMMEDIATELY TO INTERVENE AND DO NOT TALK TO THE POLICE OR GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATORS. Call (619) 231-0724 or (858) 848-5290.
You have the right to remain silent. If they want to speak to you, it is probably because they need more evidence against you or someone you know, in order to get a conviction.
You must report as ordered.
If you bring your cell phone with you, it will probably be confiscated. If you don’t have it with you, they may ask to accompany you to your home or workplace to get it. Don’t voluntarily hand it over. Make them get an order from your command or a search warrant. They will then later have to show they had a reason sufficient to seize it. If you give them permission, they will never have to deal with that issue in court.
Before speaking with you, you must be given your Article 31(b) (Miranda) Rights. They must tell you the charges for which you are being investigated. That information is often on the top of the rights form. Refuse to speak.
DO NOT SIGN THE PART OF THE FORM AGREEING TO TALK TO THEM.
The Rules of Engagement allow them to lie to you. They often do. They will tell you somebody else pointed the finger at you or that they have recordings of you saying something incriminating. They will tell you any other information they think will make you talk to them.
If you lie to them about anything, you will have made a false official statement for which you can be charged regardless of whether they charge you with the offense they believe you have committed.
Tell them you demand to speak to an attorney as early and as often as you can.
Upon your release, contact Coastal Legal Center for help. In an emergency we are available at any time, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
Q: Investigators Want My Permission To Search My House, Garage, Car, Computer, Camera, Tape Recording, Etc, Etc. Should I Give It To Them?
A: The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits illegal searches and seizures of your property. Understand that you will be giving up or waiving your rights by granting permission to a government agent, such as the police, NCIS, Military Police, to search.
If they are asking your permission, it may be because they have insufficient information to get a search warrant or an order from your Command. They may tell you they will get a warrant anyway if you do not give them permission. But, they can lie to you. NEVER GRANT PERMISSION TO SEARCH. TELL THEM TO GET THAT WARRANT OR ORDER. Do not believe them if they tell you they will go easier on you if you give them permission to search. They do not have the authority to make that promise. Only the prosecutor or convening authority has that authority.
Q: What Is A Court-Martial? What Is The Difference Between A Special And General Court-Martial?
A: Members of the military services are subject to military discipline and criminal prosecution for illegal activities while in the service. Even if there is a parallel prosecution in a civilian court, your command can prosecute on the military side. Although there are no “misdemeanors” or “felonies” in the military system, it is helpful to think of certain charges along those lines. In civilian courts, a misdemeanor is a crime for which punishment may include up to one year of custody in county jail, but not prison. A felony is a crime that can include custody in prison, generally for more than a year.
Similarly, a special court-martial can order custody for up to one year. It is often served locally in the military brig. A general court-martial has the power to sentence you to prison, often served at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. There are many other differences. A general court-martial requires an initial Article 32 investigation by an investigating officer. A special court-martial does not. Your Coastal Legal Center attorneys have experience in handling both.
Q: What is Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP), Office Hours, Or Captain’s Mast?
A: Depending on the nature of your charges, NJP, Office Hours, or Captain’s Mast, is often a shortcut to a discharge from the service. In almost all cases you will be found responsible for your alleged wrongdoing. That will often be used as a basis for your administrative discharge with strong possibilities of an Other Than Honorable (OTH) designation, and loss of many military benefits.
If you are charged with a drug related offense, mandatory processing is required. That does not necessarily mean you will be discharged. You are entitled to defend yourself at either a court-martial or an Administrative Discharge Board. In many instances, such as when not attached to a vessel, you are entitled to refuse NJP, and have your case handled by either an administrative discharge board or a court-martial, where you have many more rights.
Q: I Have Been Given A Charge Sheet Or Told That I Am Going To Be Charged. What Do I Do?
A: You will be assigned “detailed counsel” from the JAG Corps. You also have the right to hire a civilian attorney. Your civilian attorney will be outside the military command structure, often not bound by the same concerns as detailed counsel.
We have a track record of successfully defending members throughout the United States and around the world. Feel free to speak with your detailed counsel, but no one else, even your best buddy, since that person can be questioned and called as a witness regarding conversations you had. Make no statements, or additional statements if you have already spoken to authorities or investigators. Use your right to remain silent. Sign no forms giving up your right to remain silent. Even if you tell the truth, but they do not believe you, they can file an additional count of making a false official statement.
It boils down to this for you: remain silent, preserve all your rights, and make it harder for them to get a conviction. Or you speak to them, get charged, and make it harder to defend your case. It’s your choice. DO NOT BE BULLIED BY YOUR INTERROGATORS. They often suggest that if you have nothing to hide, there’s no reason to refuse. That is rubbish. You can always speak to them after you have spoken to defense counsel.
Q: Why Is Making A “False Official Statement” Such A Problem?
A: Because it is a separate crime for which you can and will be charged under Article 107. The maximum punishment for it is a dishonorable discharge and five (5) years in prison. Still have the urge to talk? If you make no statement to investigators or your command when asked to do so, they have no statements to rely upon to suggest you have lied. MAKE NO STATEMENTS TO INVESTIGATORS. Speak with us. Even if you do not retain us, anything you discuss is shielded by the “Attorney-Client privilege.”
Q: Why Should I Hire Civilian Counsel When I Know Detailed Counsel Will Be Assigned To Me For Free?
A: Military counsels is free to you, yes, but keep in mind that they are sometimes inexperienced and overloaded with cases. We make arguments and fight in ways detailed counsel might be uncomfortable with. Our many years of experience count.
Q: If I Committed The Crime And The Evidence Against Me Is Strong, Why Do I Need Civilian Counsel?
A: The rules of evidence in a courtroom are complicated. Many times evidence of your guilt can be excluded, making it difficult for a prosecutor to convict you. (See Q:2 above) Even if all the evidence against you is admitted and you are convicted, it is the jury or Administrative Board that determines your punishment.
Arguments made at the punishment stage of your trial can determine whether you spend time in custody, the nature of your discharge, and your loss of benefits. We have the time and resources to create the best sentencing outcomes for our clients. We also are able to negotiate the very best pre-trial agreements and settlements of your case.
Q: What Kinds Of Evidence Will Be Used To Try To Convict Me?
A: More and more, computer records, text messages, e-mails and phone calls are used, along with social media such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and others. In drug cases, texts asking for “V” (Vicodin) or “C” (Coke) or any other secret code names are so obvious in their context and provide strong evidence of drug or other contraband possession, sale, or other crime. If your friends on Facebook discuss drugs, it can come back to haunt you at a Board or trial. Prosecutors love social media such as Twitter and Facebook! Even if you delete your information, it can often be retrieved forensically. Be careful about what you write and say on social media, on your phone (texts, emails, and the photos you keep). Other than that, the statements of others, photos and videos, bragging (admissions) to third parties, and other direct and circumstantial evidence can be used. Your home, workplace, vehicle and other areas are often searched for contraband, or other evidence. The government, regardless of where it came from, often confiscates large sums of cash. If you keep it where they can find it, they will.