As an American citizen and a soldier, you have many rights at every point in a criminal investigation. However, under the Unified Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), your rights differ slightly from what you’d see in a civilian case. Today we’ll look specifically at the hearing process you will go through before referral to a general court-martial.
The hearing before a general court-martial
An article 32 hearing takes place before a referral to a general court-martial. The purpose of this hearing is to decide:
- If the convening authority has jurisdiction over the individual and the crime
- If the allegations constitute an offense under the UCMJ
- If there is probable cause
If the hearing finds that the answer to all these questions is “yes,” it will refer your case to a general court-martial. In a general court-martial, you will face significant and career-defined long-lasting penalties.
However, in this hearing, you have rights that you must exercise to defend your livelihood, future and freedom. These rights are:
- The right to representation
- The right to cross-examine witnesses
Much like in a civilian trial, you get to present your side of the case and interview the main portions of the case against you. Where the real importance comes in is having representation.
Why representation matters
The law is complex. Military law is even more complex than civilian law because it has its traditions and procedures. With a skilled military legal advisor on your side defending you and cross-examining witness testimony, you may be able to stop a court martial before it happens.