Criminal Investigations

Seeking Legal Counsel
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If you’re being investigated by military law enforcement, you should immediately seek legal counsel. You can accomplish this by contacting a civilian lawyer experienced in military law or by visiting your base legal office. You may or may not need to retain a lawyer at this stage, but you will certainly want to understand your rights. 

Military Law Enforcement Branches
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The services have their own law enforcement investigative branches empowered to conduct criminal investigations and arrest military members for crimes committed under the UCMJ. These branches include the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), The Army Criminal Investigative Division (CID), and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI). These branches investigate felony-level crimes committed by or against active-duty members.

Interaction with Law Enforcement
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If any law enforcement agent (LEA) approaches you or a loved one and begins to ask you questions, you should consider carefully your response or if you want to respond at all.

Investigative Procedures
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A criminal investigation will often entail interviewing witnesses, including your friends and family members, reviewing your social media and internet activity, and even seeking search warrants and authorization to listen to your phone calls or track your communications. Your CO may be the approval authority for these warrants.

Consent to Search
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If the LEA desires to search your person or property (or obtain a urine sample, access to your phone, etc.), they are trained first to seek your voluntary consent to do so. If you are ever asked to consent to a search, you should consider postponing that consent until you can speak to an attorney first. 

Arrest Procedures
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Once the investigation is complete, the LEA will send the report to an active-duty attorney to seek concurrence for probable cause to “arrest” you. If they receive that permission, you will be brought into the LEA’s office, fingerprinted, and photographed. This will result in an official “arrest” record. 

 Charging Decision
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Next, the investigation will be sent to an active-duty prosecutor to decide or recommend whether you should be formally charged with a crime. If you are, you will then receive military-appointed active-duty defense counsel.

Legal Assistance
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While active-duty lawyers can only help you once you are charged with a crime, civilian lawyers can assist you from the very beginning. Consider reaching out to a civilian lawyer experienced in military law at the first sign of trouble. 

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