Officers who face misconduct allegations or stand accused of failing to perform their duties can face a board of inquiry (BOI) investigation. Three higher-ranking officers make up the board and hear evidence to determine if misconduct occurred.
Some see BOIs as less serious than court-martial cases. But the potential consequences of these allegations and an unfavorable ruling can end military careers or lead to a reduction in rank for officers eligible for retirement. If you receive a notification of elimination from the board, it is crucial to seek experienced legal guidance immediately.
Actions after receiving a BOI notification
Misconduct accusations may result from a single incident or event that impacted a mission or the officer’s performance of their duties. Typically, the officer, also known as the “respondent,” would have previously received a letter of reprimand, nonjudicial punishments or other adverse actions.
An experienced military attorney known as the “recorder” argues the government’s elimination case. Once notified, respondents have options, including resignation or submitting a formal written response asking for the elimination to be retroactively modified.
If their written response is denied, officers can request to appear in person along with their attorney in front of the board of inquiry. In most cases, officers only have 30 days to respond to a notification of elimination. Once a BOI is confirmed, the board usually convenes within 90 days.
Just as during a court-martial, both sides present their arguments at the BOI. In some cases, the respondent admits wrongdoing, so the strategy may be to convince the board that discharge is not warranted.
In cases where the officer did not commit misconduct, refuses to accept responsibility or when a lack of evidence exists, the goal is to refute the recorder’s case and convince the board that no misconduct occurred.
After the BOI
Rules differ depending upon your branch of service, but here are some general outcomes. If you are found not guilty, or it is determined that you did not commit a disqualifying act, and the board rules against discharge, the matter is typically closed, except in rare cases.
If the board ruling favors discharge, the case can go before the General Court-Martial Convening Authority. Appeals are possible at this level, as the GCMCA has the authority to reverse the BOI ruling, change discharge conditions or even suspend the discharge due to good conduct.
The bottom line is that taking a “wait and see” approach is a serious mistake if you receive an elimination notification. The BOI process is adversarial, and the government will do everything in its power to prove its case. With so much at stake, receiving experienced legal guidance as soon as possible is crucial.