Know Your UCMJ Rights

Your UCMJ Rights

You have rights under the UCMJ, and you should exercise them!

Article 31(b) Rights

Article 31 of the UCMJ says:

(a) No person subject to this chapter may compel any person to incriminate himself or to answer any question the answer to which may tend to incriminate him.

(b) No person subject to this chapter may interrogate, or request any statement from, an accused or a person suspected of an offense without first informing him of the nature of the accusation and advising him that he does not have to make any statement regarding the offense of which he is accused or suspected and that any statement made by him may be used as evidence against him in a trial by court-martial.

(c) No person subject to this chapter may compel any person to make a statement or produce evidence before any military tribunal if the statement or evidence is not material to the issue and may tend to degrade him.

(d) No statement obtained from any person in violation of this article, or through the use of coercion, unlawful influence, or unlawful inducement may be received in evidence against him in a trial by court-martial.

Article 31(b) is what prohibits investigators from asking you questions without first informing you generally what you are accused of, telling you of your right to remain silent, and informing you that anything you say can be used against you.

Article 31(d) is what prohibits an unlawfully obtained statement from being used against you in a court-martial. Notice that it does not prohibit unlawfully obtained statements from being used against you in administrative actions, such as an administrative separation board or nonjudicial punishment.

Right to remain silent

You have the absolute right to remain silent. Choosing to remain silent can never be held against you.

It’s common to think that your commanding officer may believe you are guilty simply because you chose to remain silent, leading someone to decide it’s best to tell their side of the story without a lawyer. Of the 20+ combined years Steph and Abby have been practicing military justice, we cannot think of a single time the choice to remain silent was to the detriment of the client.

During an investigation, you should remain silent until you are able to talk to an experienced military defense lawyer. If the right course of action is to make a statement, then it is necessary to be prepared to ensure you get the best result possible for your case.

You also have the right to remain silent in other proceedings, including nonjudicial punishment, disciplinary review boards, XOI’s, administrative discharge boards, or courts-martial.

There is a litany of reasons someone chooses to remain silent, completely unrelated to whether they are guilty. The choice is entirely personal and based on a multitude of factors. Steph and Abby take the time to work with our clients to help them come to the right decision for their particular case.

Nature of the accusations

A common question is whether investigators have to tell you exactly what you are accused of or whether they have to tell you any facts and details of what you’re accused of.

The short answer is: NO.

The investigator needs to give you a frame of reference for the investigation by telling you generally about the offenses. United States v. Quintana, 5 M.J. 484 (C.M.A. 1978). In one case, informing a suspect they were suspected of “sexual assault” in reference to one victim was sufficient to inform them they were also suspected of raping a separate victim 4 years prior. United States v. Rogers, 47 M.J. 135 (C.A.A.F. 1997).

You will not get details from agents during a rights advisement. Read more about what a subject interview looks like here.

Right to stop questioning and leave

When you are under investigation, you will be taken to NCIS, AFOSI, CID, or CGIS by someone in your chain of command. You must follow the orders of your superiors and go where they tell you to go, when they tell you to go there.

However, when you are sitting in the room with the agents and they read you your rights, you are free to invoke those rights and leave, unless they tell you that you are under arrest. If you do choose to make a statement and become uncomfortable or suspicious of the questioning, you have the right to tell them you are done being questioned and leave.

Right to an attorney

You have the right to an attorney. This applies when you have been read your Article 31(b) rights, when you have pending disciplinary action, when you are facing an administrative separation, and when you are charged in a court-martial. The exact scope of the rights differs between the different actions, so visit each page to learn more about the specific rights for each.

In the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, you have a limited right to counsel for everything short of administrative discharge boards and courts-martial. You will generally get an approximately 30-minute consultation with them, where they will discuss their limited scope of representation. They will not provide a full scope of representation the way a civilian military defense counsel can.

When you are being questioned, you must unequivocally invoke your right to an attorney. Saying “Maybe I should talk to a lawyer” is insufficient to invoke your rights and stop the interview. United States v. Davis, 36 M.J. 337 (C.M.A. 1993), aff’d, 512 U.S. 452 (1994). Say:

  • “I want a lawyer.”
  • “I am exercising my right to an attorney.”
  • “I want to remain silent.”
  • “I will not make a statement.”

Don’t discuss with the agents whether to invoke your rights. They will keep trying to question you. Invoke your rights and then talk to an experienced military defense lawyer to determine your next steps.

Right to refuse consent

You have the right to refuse consent. When investigators ask, “can we take a look at your phone?” the answer should be “no.” Even if you think you have evidence that is favorable to yourself, remember that you do not know what all the other evidence may be, and that the agents do not have your best interests in mind.

If you have already given consent, you can revoke it at any time. This is extremely important in cases involving forensic testing. For example, when you have consented to a urinalysis, you can withdraw that consent prior to testing, even when the urine is in the custody of the government. United States v. Dease, 71 M.J. 116 (C.A.A.F. 2012). If they test it anyway, the evidence will be inadmissible at a court-martial.

When KMD provides a notice of representation after we have been retained, we will also talk to our clients about revoking consent. If included in the notice, the revocation will clearly inform the government that the evidence cannot be tested absent a search authorization, which they may or may not have legal grounds to obtain. In some past cases KMD has handled, this tactic has worked to get all the charges dismissed in court-martial proceedings.

Contact Kral Military Defense, PC today at 619-376-6820.

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*Please note, KMD does not handle cases involving the Department of Veterans Affairs, disability claims, or family law matters.

You never expect to need an attorney while you are serving in the Military. You even procrastinate thinking you can manage the simplicity of your case, because after all, you are innocent, and you think the Government will recognize that. However, sometimes simplicity is not a government characteristic and things can spiral out of control. If you are a service member and ever need legal assistance, I implore you to call an Attorney.You will want a knowledgeable attorney with a military background, extensive NLSO connections, who shoots straight and will be the sharp end of your legal sword.Stephanie Kral was my attorney through 3 years of managing my case against the U.S. Gov. and without Stephanie and her team, it would have been a nightmare. I am fortunate to have enlisted her services and had the opportunity to watch her navigate the complexities of military law. She is everything you will want in an experienced attorney for both simple and complex cases. Call them immediately!
Marty S.
Marty S.
The paralegal Danielle is one of the best I have worked with. She was and is still one of my mentors in my career and life. She took care of me a many others as a defense paralegal manager. She always makes time for you. Her knowledge and her compassion for taking care of people is why she is who she is!! The Best! She is someone you will always want on your side. She is truly one of the best people I know!!!!
Tasha S.
Tasha S.
Stephanie is the most professional, well respected, and most genuine legal person that I know in the business. After working with her, from the moment we talked to the time she finished my case, she gave not only 100 percent of her time and dedication but also complete devotion to my needs, advise, and my case without hesitation. Her extensive background in military law coming from her military background as a Major in the United States Airforce and now civilian law comes unmatched. Her dedication to protecting the rights of military members speakes for itself with the flawless record she has out there in the fleet. Words cant express enough what she has done for me and my family ensuring I got the fairest case available and the best outcome there was. Thank you Stephanie. She is the best there is!!
Anthony B.
Anthony B.
Fortunately, I have not had to use these services however, once I heard Danielle worked here I knew I would be in good hands should I ever need assistance. Danielle was my paralegal supervisor when I was first entered into the paralegal career field and she changed my career trajectory for the better. She paved the way for me to promote through the ranks and managed my training phase from an apprentice to a journeyman in the career field. She has expert knowledge and provides candid feedback to those who ask. She's an all around professional.
Don G.
Don G.
I have been attempting to write this review for Stephanie for 3 months, Everytime I write it I delete it because I don’t think it’s good enough. This review was long past due but To the individual that may be facing any type of legal troubles from the bottom of my heart this is THE lawyer that you want on your side. At the age of 21, I faced 20 years in prison for a crime I did not commit. Stephanie is the definition of top-tier no words can describe how grateful I am for Stephanie and her team. She not only got my case dismissed, but she gave me my life back, for 2 1/2 years I was stuck in South Korea my command didn’t allow me to take leave. When I told Stephanie she dropped everything and went above and beyond, Steph personally told the government they better allow me to take leave to see my family. THE SAME DAY! They granted me 45 days of leave & when I came back I received a call from Stephanie, yelling with joy “ they are dropping all the charges “. Stephanie is that lawyer you see in movies who always wins, even when you feel like something isn’t going right Stephanie is always in control. Not only did the government lawyers respect her, the judge respected her , the Commanding General respected her and knew her name. So all I can say is thank you Stephanie and if you’re someone who truly needs help this is your lawyer ! Stephanie told me I was her second longest case that she ever had but one thing I can always guarantee about Stephanie is she never lacks when it comes to communication anything you wanna know anything you should know she will let you know Stephanie is an open book she tells you how it is she’s not gonna lie to you or waste your time.From the bottom of my heart thank you Stephanie !
Darrell L.
Darrell L.
Steph is the best in the business. She is compassionate, hardworking, intelligent, diligent, and knowledgeable. As a fellow attorney and colleague, I have reached out to Steph to bring her on board and help with some of my toughest cases, knowing having her by my side would lead to the best possible outcome.She is a fierce advocate for her clients; she does not back down or take nonsense from anyone. She is one of the few attorneys I would never want to see on the other side of a case.If you are in a tough spot and in need of legal assistance, you will not find better representation than Stephanie Kral.
Daniel M.
Daniel M.
Before I retired from the Air Force, I had a life altering experience. I was accused of some very serious crimes and facing major prison time if convicted. I was referred to Stephanie Kral by a legal advisor and man, was I happy that I obtained her service. This woman is a master of her craft. She was professional, focused, extremely through with her research and background information gathering. Mrs. Kral’s litigation skills are at extraordinary levels and once I’ve seen her 1st day in court I knew I was is great hands. I owe my life to Stephanie Kral and I would recommend her to anyone needing the best military criminal defense attorney around.
Erik M.
Erik M.
Stephanie Kral is an amazing attorney. She went above and beyond and works tirelessly to get the best outcome. She is a caring and intelligent attorney who chooses to personally communicate with you along the way, always making you feel like a priority. Stephanie, Thank you for all you do!
Erin S.
Erin S.

About The Firm

Kral Military Defense defends members of America's military throughout the world. We do not maintain physical office space in the traditional sense. Instead, we offer secure video and telephone consultations and meet with current clients, as needed, at home and abroad.

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