An Article 32 hearing is a military justice pre-trial hearing that determines if there is sufficient evidence for a criminal case to be sent to a general court-martial. Because an Article 32 trial happens prior to the court-martial defense process. This “discovery” hearing can provide a strategic opportunity for the defense. If you need legal aid, Military Trial Defenders can help. Here are a few things to expect at an Article 32 hearing.
Article 32 Hearings – The Basics
Under the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice, an Article 32 hearing is a proceeding that mirrors a preliminary hearing in civilian law. Hearing officers who may be either Military Judges or JAG officers tend to preside over these pre-trials. The presiding hearing officer serves to present probable cause for the charge faced by the military member during the trial. The presiding officer will also make recommendation as to how a case should proceed depending on the allegations and evidence that is presented.
The officer may suggest that the case proceed to a general court-martial or special court-martial, that charges are extended or altered, that non-judicial punishment is more appropriate, or that charges are dropped completely. Importantly, the suggestions given by the hearing officers are only expert recommendations. Ultimately, commanding officers choose how to proceed given the evidence and recommendations. Military law is a complex system with several safeguards, and having a good defense strategy is imperative.
An experienced military defense lawyer knows that Article 32 hearings are important opportunities to reveal fatal flaws in the government’s case by challenging evidence and cross examining witnesses. Article 32 hearings include a thorough presentation of evidence and multiple types of testimony. For this reason, these trials have the potential to go on for quite some time. The defense has a lot of freedom in cross-examining witnesses. It is important to take advantage of this important opportunity. If the defense’s case is strong enough, however, the charges may be dropped altogether -making the long process more than worth it.
Court-Martial Defense Begins with Article 32 Hearings
Court-martial defense begins long before a court-martial occurs. When a military member faces allegations for a serious crime, he or she should seek out court-martial defense immediately. This should be done before the official establishment of a general court-martial. A military defense lawyer can help a service member gather the necessary tools to provide a comprehensive, aggressive defense in an Article 32 hearing.
Military Defense Lawyers in El Paso
If you are facing an Article 32 hearing or a court-martial, the attorneys at Military Trial Defenders in El Paso are excellent resources. Contact Military Trial Defenders to see how they can serve you.