Investigations of crimes and other problematic conduct by servicemembers and officers can cause significant anxiety. Most military personnel are not well versed in these procedures. Especially if you are not involved in these procedures regularly or you have never faced disciplinary actions of this kind, the entire procedure can be extremely complicated.
However, preliminary investigations, administrative investigations and boards of inquiry are not as complicated as they seem. Understanding the distinctions between these three types of investigations provides knowledge and strength as you proceed through the system. As with any military investigation or possible disciplinary action, you must secure competent legal counsel and representation as soon as possible.
Army Regulation 15-6 provides a good overview for these investigations. There are three basic types: Preliminary investigations, administrative investigations and boards of officers.
As the name suggests, preliminary investigations start the investigatory process. According to Army Regulation 15-6, a preliminary inquiry “is a procedure used to ascertain the magnitude of a problem, to identify and interview witnesses, to summarize or record witnesses’ statements, to determine whether an investigation or board may be necessary, or to assist in determining the scope of a subsequent investigation.”
This means that the preliminary inquiry is simply the opening procedure by which the authorities determine the validity of the claims, the scope of the allegations and whether an administrative investigation or a board of officers would be the best way to proceed.
Between administrative investigations and boards of officers, administrative investigations represent situations in which evidence can be gathered and facts can be ascertained without requiring a panel of officers to be involved in the process.
Boards of officers
Boards of officers often come into play in more situations involving more serious allegations. The procedure is similar to that of an administrative investigation, only it involves a board of officers doing the fact gathering.
What you need to know
Whatever procedure you are facing, take the step of contacting an experienced military defense attorney as soon as possible. With the possibility of discharge, punishment, loss of your security clearance and other penalties, the stakes are high, so make sure you have a strong defense strategy as early as possible.