How Long May Your Military Criminal Case Take to Resolve?
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Navigate military criminal investigations with expert advice. Learn service members rights, and the process from a seasoned military justice lawyer
Interviewer: How long will each criminal case take? Do they take any longer to try than civilian cases?
Chris: It just depends. Your common DUI case, at least in Honolulu, will take however many months, even a year. With some of these cases, the investigation could start and be done within a month and a half and you’re going through charges, but the more serious the offense, the more likely it is to drag on. It can take an emotional toll.
Interviewer: And going back to the process, you talked about the article 32 hearing. That sounds like a trial. What happens after that hearing?
Chris: In an article 32, you have an investigating officer who may or may not be an attorney or JAG. The Army often times uses just regular line officers. You have a defense counsel. You have a government representative.
The government representative provides evidence to the investigating officer. It’s not supposed to be adversarial in nature, but often times, it can be.
In a Military Proceeding, the Defendant Can Cross Examine Witness Testifying for the Prosecution
The defense counsel has the right to cross examine whatever witnesses are called by the government and they have the right to present witnesses they believe will be favorable to their case.
Interviewer: It seems that this is one way a military proceeding is more favorable than a civilian scenario, because, instead of just discovery, you can actually cross-examine witnesses before a trial?
Chris: Right. I think it can be an advantage to help you understand what is really coming against you. It’s an opportunity to work on strategy and tactics in your case. It’s an opportunity to become an expert in the charges against you.
What Will Transpire After an Article 32 Hearing?
Interviewer: What happens after this article 32 hearing?
Chris: The investigating officer writes his or her report and sends it to the convening authority. The convening authority takes action in your case, which is either going to a general court-martial, special court-martial or dismissing the case or recommending non-judicial punishment. So, some type of decision in your case is going to be made at this stage.
Interviewer: Among the cases you see, where does it most commonly go?
Chris: If it’s an article 32, I think it more likely than not, it’s going to go to a trial.
Is it Possible to Have Your Case Transferred to a Court Martial That Tries Lesser Offenses?
Interviewer: Are you able to have a lot of influence at that point, as their attorney? Will you be able to, get the case, instead of going to a general court-martial, be put into a special court-martial? Is it ever possible to have the case transferred to a court martial that tries lesser offenses?
Chris: That definitely can happen. I think what you often times see, if it’s an extremely serious charge, you’re not going to see it transferred, but it gives you the opportunity to become extremely acquainted with the facts, the evidence, the witnesses and your case.
Because you have the opportunity to request evidence, you can start to set the stage for what is going to be your court-martial. You have certain control that you would normally not have, in the civilian world. This is because in a civilian case, you’re just simply going to go to trial.
The opportunity to cross-examine and the opportunity to call witnesses, and ask for evidence, is a tremendous advantage.
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