Despite its name, a general court-martial is not required for “all or most cases.” In fact, it's quite specialized and limited; it's only necessary when a very serious crime accusation arises within the armed forces. Due to the severity of such cases, an Article 32 hearing is used beforehand so that the claim can be investigated. Based on the evidence presented, the case will either progress to a court-martial or be dismissed. Article 32 hearing procedures can be intimidating if you're not prepared, so it is in your best interest to consult an experienced lawyer and learn about the proceedings beforehand.
Article 32 Hearing Procedures
When a member of the military is charged with a severe crime, an investigation will begin to determine if the charges warrant a general court-martial. A commissioned officer (who is not the accuser) will appoint the all-important investigating officer, who will conduct the investigation and compose a report following the hearing. The investigative hearing, which is typically open to the public and media, is scheduled after the appointment of the investigating officer. The accused, the defense counsel, and the investigating officer normally attend this hearing, and an attorney representing the United States may be present as well. During an Article 32 hearing, you can expect the following to occur:
INTRODUCTION & EVIDENCE. The investigating officer will announce the investigation and its purpose. They will also review the accused's right to counsel and then ask the accused whether they will be represented by counsel (and if so, by whom). The investigating officer will then formally read the charges and review non-testimonial evidence.
WITNESSES. The investigating officer will examine witnesses, and the defense and government attorney may cross-examine these witnesses. After that, if an attorney is representing the United States, they will examine government witnesses first. Then, the defense may cross-examine and the investigating officer may examine the government witnesses. Finally, if the defense calls witnesses, they will examine them first, followed by a cross-examination by the government counsel and an examination by the investigating officer.
ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE. The accused may present evidence to support their claim, and the accused and the defense counsel may make unsworn statements as well. The government and investigating officer are not allowed to ask questions of the accused after the statement.
REPORT. After the hearing, the investigating officer will submit a written report, which will detail the hearing, the investigating officer's conclusions, and their recommendations regarding the case (whether it ought to be dismissed, move to a court-martial, etc).
Article 32 hearings serve a critically important role within the military justice system. The investigation provides important witnesses and evidence, both of which will be used to determine whether or not a court-martial is warranted. Plus, the defense will learn about the government's evidence and be able to cross-examine witnesses, which will almost certainly prove beneficial at the trial.
To learn more about Article 32 hearing procedures, please check out this previous blog post, which reviews what an Article 32 hearing is, how it works, and how you can prepare for it.
Finally, if you're looking for a top-quality military lawyer to represent you during an Article 32 hearing, contact Newsom & Gapasin. Whether you're under investigation or facing a court-martial, our experienced and aggressive law firm would be happy to help. We focus on winning tough cases, some of which have been reported on by national media outlets like CNN, Fox News, Time, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. For more information, please give us a call at 1-(888) 919-8265 , send an e-mail to [email protected], or click here to contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you!