As provided in Article 32 of the UCMJ, “no charge or specification may be referred to a general court-martial for trial until a thorough and impartial investigation of all the matters set forth therein has been made.” If the command is considering referring your case to a general court-martial, the commander must first appoint an impartial officer (typically a lawyer) to review the evidence and provide an opinion regarding whether the case should proceed to court-martial. The General Court-Martial Convening Authority (Commanding General) has no power to refer the case to a general court-martial unless and until an Article 32 hearing is conducted (or waived by the accused).
What Rights Does an Accused Have at an Article 32 Hearing?
An Article 32 investigation is the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding in the civilian court context, but with many more rights for an accused. Unlike a civilian grand jury proceeding where the government attorney presents the case to a group of citizens in a private setting, in the military system, the accused is provided the right to actively participate in the probable cause hearing.
Within 5 days of the issuance of an Article 32 appointment order, the government is required to disclose to the defense:
Under Rule for Court-Martial 405(f), an accused has the following additional rights at an Article 32 hearing:
The right to…
A civilian military defense counsel will investigate all of the charges, review witness statements and other evidence obtained, and conduct a conscientious review of all the facts. A strong defense at an Article 32 investigation could cause the commander to lower the charges, proceed to an administrative forum vice court-martial, or withdraw and dismiss the charges completely. An Article 32 investigation is therefore one of the best tools in the defense arsenal.
What is the Advantage to Hiring a Civilian Counsel for an Article 32 Hearing?
Although every accused is appointed a uniformed attorney, a civilian attorney can work along with the appointed military counsel to enhance the defense capabilities. When a servicemember’s future and liberty are on the line, it is risky to settle for appointed counsel who may have competing interests. Mr. Barnett’s only loyalty is to his client. He does not report to the commander and is not part of the chain of command that is bringing the charges. Brandon Barnett has the knowledge and experience to ensure that an accused is protected throughout this important pre-trial process. Call him at (817) 993-9249 or email him for a free consultation of your case.