U.S. military members have a separate criminal justice system that addresses criminal offenses and doles out punishment when necessary. If you are accused of a crime while serving in the military, you may face an Article 32 hearing as part of the military justice system.
What is a military Article 32 hearing, and what can you expect from this legal process? The team at Invictus Law has the answers and can help you prepare for what’s ahead.
What Is an Article 32 Hearing?
Under the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice, an Article 32 hearing is similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian law. The purpose of an Article 32 hearing is to impartially determine if there is enough evidence against an individual to move forward with a court-martial. Essentially, it is a legal inquiry examining the validity of the charges against you.
How Does an Article 32 Hearing Proceed?
Before an Article 32 hearing, the military court will appoint a Preliminary Hearing Officer or PHO. The PHO will review all available evidence, documents, and witness testimony presented. After considering everything, the PHO must make a recommendation or a non-binding decision as to whether:
- There is enough evidence to justify the charges against you
- The charges are in the proper form
- The forum best suited to handle the charges and related disciplinary action, such as whether the case should move on to a court-martial or to a less severe proceeding
Although the PHO does not necessarily need a legal background, most Article 32 officers appointed to oversee hearings are military attorneys with detailed knowledge of the military justice system.
Once the PHO is appointed, a hearing date is scheduled. As the accused, you will be required to attend the hearing and are allowed to bring your defense counsel. During the Article 32 hearing, the PHO will:
- Announce the start of the hearing and list the purpose of the proceedings
- Advise the accused of their legal rights
- Formally address the charges against the accused individual
- Review all documents and evidence available in the case
- Call available witnesses to testify
- Consider the statements of the accused or their defense counsel
At the end of the hearing, the PHO will carefully consider all elements presented and draft a report that includes their recommendation for moving forward. The Preliminary Hearing Officer may recommend that all charges be dropped, charges should be amended, or that an alternative disposition is warranted. In some cases, the PHO will suggest that the case proceeds to a General Court-Martial.
Do You Need a Military Defense Lawyer to Represent You During an Article 32 Hearing?
The simple answer is yes. Unfortunately, some view an Article 32 hearing as a speed bump to a more formal Court-Martial. This attitude is the wrong one to take. An Article 32 hearing can be a strategic opportunity for a seasoned defense team to refute the validity of the evidence against you and challenge the admissibility of the prosecution’s evidence.
Before the opposing side gains traction, get an experienced Virginia Beach military law attorney on your side. At Invictus Law, we understand the importance of acting quickly on your behalf.
Contact a Virginia Beach Military Law Attorney Today
At Invictus Law, we want to protect your rights throughout the hearing process. We are committed to offering you an aggressive defense, and we know what it takes to build a compelling military law defense strategy.
If you are a U.S. servicemember accused of a crime, contact our Virginia Beach office today at 757-317-5125 for a confidential case evaluation.