The Mayer Law Blog

Military Investigations: Let’s Talk About It

Posted October 26th, 2022 in General

I spend a lot of time talking about discharge upgrades, but let’s turn to an area of the law that doesn’t get enough love: military investigations.

These come in many forms. The most noteworthy are criminal investigations. Those make for good movies. However, in the military, there’s a far more common form of investigation: command investigations.

What is it?

Each service has their own particular terms and nomenclature, like the Army which refers to them by the regulation governing administrative investigations, but they are all essentially the same.

  • A commander wants information about something. Can this be a criminal matter? Yes, but it is usually one that isn’t serious enough to involve law enforcement. Good example: Allegations of nothing more than Extramarital Sexual Contact (previously Adultery). Can it involve matters that are not criminal? Again, yes. Good example: Why was a rifle lost in the field during an exercise at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, or why did the parachutes not open for a piece of military equipment at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina?
  • The commander appoints someone (investigating officer) to investigate.
  • The investigating officer investigates.
  • The investigating officer presents a report to the commander.
  • The commander takes action.

What is the process?

So, what does an investigating officer usually do? There are several steps that are followed most of the time, but not always.

  • When appointed by the commander, the investigating officer receives a list of issues to investigate.
  • The investigating officer consults with a neutral government attorney.
  • Usually, they start by obtaining any documents or physical evidence that are essential to the investigation.
  • Then, they begin soliciting statements from witnesses and other people who might know relevant information.
  • After this, if a subject exists (person who is suspected of doing something wrong), the investigating officer requests a statement from the subject.
  • The investigating officer consults with neutral counsel again. Counsel usually reviews the final draft.
  • Investigation ends, and the commander receives the report. The report consists of facts, findings, and recommendations.
  • Sometimes, after the investigation ends, the subjects of the investigation might have a chance to respond to the findings.

Why should you care?

That’s a great question.

Let’s face it. You’re probably looking at this page because you are the subject of an investigation. You feel afraid, anxious, curious, and maybe angry. Those feelings are natural, and you are allowed to have them. You realize that the investigation may cost you money. It might end your career, prevent promotions, affect your family, or cause you personal and professional humiliation. The higher the rank; the harsher the possible consequences. Knowing this, it is vitally important to respond appropriately.

  • Remain silent and do not talk about the investigation with anyone except your counsel.
  • Consult counsel ASAP. Whether it is a civilian or military counsel, talk to them immediately.
  • With the assistance of counsel, devise a plan.
  • Respond to the military investigation only when it is tactically advisable to do so. This can be tricky, depending on the investigation.

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