An Article 32 hearing is something no servicemember looks forward to. While there are numerous possible outcomes in a situation like this, most of them are not positive.
As a starting point when facing an Article 32 hearing, it is important to understand the basics: What is an Article 32 hearing? How does it work, procedurally? How can you best prepare for the hearing to give yourself the best possible chance of success?
What is an Article 32 hearing?
An Article 32 hearing is part of an overall Article 32 investigation. The investigation begins with accusations of a serious military crime. A commissioned officer is assigned as the primary investigator.
The purpose of the investigation and the hearing is to determine whether the case will proceed to a general court martial. This is the most serious of all courts martial, so it requires more consideration before proceeding.
What happens in the hearing?
Before the hearing, the investigating officer will gather evidence and witness testimony. These items are shared with the person under investigation before the hearing.
The hearing itself looks a little like a grand jury investigation in the civilian court system. There is an impartial Investigative Hearing Officer (IHO) who will look at all the evidence and the testimonies of the two parties to make recommendations as to how the case should proceed.
In the hearing, the IHO will look at all the government’s evidence against the accused, and the accused has opportunity to present his or her own evidence and refute the charges. While, in some respects, the Article 32 hearing is simply a preliminary before a courts martial, it is an important opportunity to build a strong defense case as well.
How can you prepare for the hearing?
Since the accused has the chance to build the foundations of a solid defense during the hearing, it is important to contact a military defense lawyer as soon as possible to prepare for the hearing well in advance.
The prosecutor will have to present the government’s evidence before the hearing, giving the accused time to prepare. With a skilled attorney, you should take time to look over the evidence, find weaknesses or inaccuracies and prepare to refute these items. Assembling your own witnesses who can testify on your behalf is a critical part of the strategy, as well.
When you prepare well for the Article 32 hearing, it is possible to have charges dropped completely, or at least have the charges reduced as a result.
Do not take your Article 32 hearing lightly. Take the time to prepare a strong defense.