Military investigations are long, grueling processes, especially for the service members involved. It may take months to conclude, and soldiers often suffer in silence during that period. Military personnel deserve to know their rights and the legalities that should be upheld during the investigation.

Matters subjected to investigation

Military investigations focus on particular issues, such as:

  • Injuries and deaths
  • Property loss and destruction
  • Criminal activity
  • Safety violations and concerns
  • Any other case

Each branch of the military uses their own methods, depending on the incident and type of investigation. An investigation may include the military police and specialized criminal investigative service organizations, depending on the case. For example, the U.S. Army uses the Criminal Investigation Command (CIC) to conduct criminal investigations of U.S. Army service members.

Types of investigations

Each criminal investigative service committee approaches an inquiry after a death, friendly fire or suicide. However, the most common investigations include:

  1. Criminal offenses: If an officer is suspected of committing a criminal offense, a commander can initiate a preliminary inquiry that looks for evidence of guilt or innocence, aggravation and extenuation and mitigation.
  2. Property loss or damage: Investigations look into circumstances surrounding the loss, damage or destruction of government property. The examination seeks responsibility, loss, liability and proximate causation.
  3. Injury or death: If a service member suffers an injury, it triggers an investigation about possible misconduct or eligibility for disability and other compensation.
  4. Commander-directed investigations: A commander can initiate a specific investigation into a person’s conduct during an incident. The commander appoints an officer to obtain facts relating to the event and then decides if the actions were appropriate.

Rights of military members

Like civilians, military members hold certain rights under the military law. For example, a service member must be advised of their legal rights at the time of initial questions, whether or not they are arrested.

Under Article 31, military members have the right to remain silent and informed of the general nature of the offense of which they are suspected. Although not in Article 31, service members are also entitled to defense counsel during questioning – similar to a public defender.

Investigations are intimidating, but understanding the process and your rights can help you move through the process as swiftly as possible.