The Power of Words and Your Article 31 Rights

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Words have incredible power. They have the power to encourage, to shape perspective, to persuade, to heal, and to direct the course of our lives. When words are used carelessly, however, they can also be incredibly harmful. They can be hurtful and humiliating. Words can get us into less-than-optimal situations. We are not pointing this out simply to encourage positive language or kind speech. Rather, we are referring specifically to your UCMJ Article 31 rights. If you require legal assistance, the team at Military Trial Defenders can help. 

The Fifth Amendment and Article 31

Many people are familiar with the phrase: “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” This is a famous excerpt from the Miranda Rights. Police officers often speak these rights to people they are arresting.  Miranda Rights require law enforcement officers to offer specific warnings when questioning a suspect who is in custody.

As a member of the United States Military, you have Fifth Amendment rights that have been afforded to you under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. These important rights are listed in Article 31 of the UCMJ. Like the Fifth Amendment, Article 31 delineates the rights of the accused during suspect proceedings. It offers military personnel protection against self-incrimination as well as the right to counsel. Unlike the Fifth Amendment, however, Article 31 does not require that suspect be in custody for the law to apply. If a questioner suspects a military member of committing an offense, he or she must offer a warning of rights before questioning occurs.

The article is thus made up of two important parts. First, no one subject to the UCMJ may compel any person to incriminate himself/herself or to answer any question that provokes an incriminating answer. Second, no person subject to the UCMJ may question or request any statement from a person suspected of an offense without first informing the suspect of the nature of the accusation, then  explaining that he or she is under no obligation to speak, and finally explaining that any statement may be used against him as evidence in a trial by court-martial

How Your Words Can Infringe Upon Your Rights

Once a military member is advised of his or her rights, the member must proceed with caution. Investigators are working to discover evidence that will lead to a conviction. This is where the power of words come in. Your words have the power to incriminate you, and Article 31 was established with this fact in mind. As experienced military attorneys, we always advise that suspects remain silent upon initial questioning. You can always talk later, but you cannot take back the words you speak under pressure. You have the absolute right to be silent and the absolute right to obtain counsel before speaking. Your Article 31 rights cannot be used against you if you choose to use them.

In some circumstances, questioning may occur before a rights advisement has been offered. If the questions are dangerous of drawing up self-incriminating evidence, you are allowed to stop the questioning and invoke you article 31 rights yourself.

Protecting Your Article 31 Rights

The attorneys at Military Trial Defenders are passionate about protecting military members. We are here to offer counsel and defend your rights. Always consult with an experienced lawyer before making any statements that have the power to negatively alter the course of your military career.

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