The UCMJ is a long and seemingly complicated document. Thankfully, most soldiers do not need a deep understanding of every article. However, Article 31 is a specific section that every service member could benefit from understanding. This Article highlights many of the defining features of the American trial system set in a military format and includes what are called the Article 31 rights. Article 31 contains many of the same provisions as the civilian Miranda warnings, however, there are a few significant distinctions worth noting.
Article 31 Rights
Comparable to the Miranda warnings, Article 31 specifies the rights of an accused military member. Some of these rights include the right to know what one is being accused of, the right to remain silent, the right to submit only evidence that is relevant to the accusation, and the right not to have unlawfully obtained evidence used against one in court.
Article 31 rights protect soldiers from being tried unfairly and it continues the American fair-trial spirit to the military court system. Interestingly enough, Article 31 predates the Miranda rule by over a decade. That being said, both have the same goal: protecting the rights of the accused and encouraging a fair trial.
One difference between the the two is that the Miranda rule applies specifically to civilians who are being held in custody. If the suspect is not being held, the law enforcement officer does not have to read them their Miranda rights. In contrast, the UCMJ requires that anyone subject to the UCMJ, regardless of if they’re a law enforcement officer, must inform the military suspect of his or her Article 31 rights. This is regardless of whether or not the suspect is in custody. This means that a service member would likely be read her Article 31 rights way before she would be read her Miranda rights if she was a civilian.
Article 32 Hearings
The military system is also different at trial. The civilian pretrial hearing is referred to as a grand jury hearing, and the military pretrial hearing is referred to as an Article 32 hearing. Both military and civilian systems include pretrial hearings. However, in an Article 32 military hearing, the accused is able to, through her attorney, request witnesses and question them herself. Also, in an Article 32 hearing, the government is required to present all relevant evidence against the accused. In a grand jury hearing, the accuser does not have to present every piece of evidence.
The military and civilian justice systems differ in several ways, but both have similar rights provided to the accused to promote a fair trial. If you find yourself or someone close to you in legal situation and need assistance, contact Military Trial Defenders. We have the military knowledge and expertise to defend your career, your rights, and your freedom.