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Facing Investigations

This is some information that may be helpful to you if you’re an active duty service member facing investigation or possible adverse action. So often I get service members who talk to me with some general questions, and I say, how are you doing? Where’s your command at on this? Where are you concerned? Do we know where your case is at? Because they’re aware that some investigation or they’ve heard some investigation is taking place, or perhaps something’s happening in the civilian world and they’ve been notified that their command is aware of this local arrest or local investigation. And and I often hear them say, no, no, it’s okay, sir. I talked to my command. My command totally has my back, or yeah, they totally support me on this.

And then those same people later sometimes call us back for help and they’re shocked and they’re like, I don’t understand. You know, my commander told me, he totally was lying to me. He totally supported me, and now he’s called me in and gave me charges for a court martial. Well, you have to understand your commander’s position. It is one thing to say we support somebody who’s suspected a crime, and that’s the commander doing their job. Because under the law, as a service member, you are presumed innocent, which means you don’t get to be punished until you’ve had your guilt established, either through criminal process, by legal and competent evidence beyond reasonable doubt, or through an administrative process by competent and relevant evidence, beyond by a preponderance of that evidence. In other words, more likely than not, and so commanders are doing their job when they say, I support you, meaning I’m going to make sure you get a fair shake.

I’m going to make sure that you can go to your legal appointments. I’m going to make sure that you know, we don’t punish you inproperly. That is what supporting you means to a commander. It doesn’t mean that commander is going to back your version of the story or is going to make sure that nothing happens to you. Commanders are there and their primary mission, primary duty, is to perform the mission and duties of their unit and to make sure that their unit is successful. They are not there to advocate for you, and that’s not their job to, and of course, we talk a lot about taking care of soldiers or taking care of marines or taking care of airmen or, looking after our people. And they can do that while simultaneously bringing up charges against you. And what their answer will be is, of course, I support you.

But after consulting with our legal advisor, we think that you need to face a court martial or you need to receive this non-judicial punishment under Article 15. My advice to individuals who are in a situation where they are maybe facing some sort of adverse action, while it’s great to get that, hear that from commanders, you should not rely on that as a strategy to make sure things will go away. You need to advocate for yourself. You need to be educated. You need to understand what you’re facing. You need to understand what the risks are. And one of the ways you can do that is to call an attorney who’s qualified and experience not just any attorney out of the gate. You don’t want to go to the family law attorney who maybe helped you with your divorce or the first person who advertises criminal defense. For example, because a lot of criminal defense attorneys don’t know the first thing about the UCMJ. I recommend that you get in touch with qualified counsel. You can always get some basic free legal advice at your installation legal office through TDS, DSO, or ADC, depending on your service. And you can also call a law firm like ours that does free confidential legal consultations. So please remember your commander or your leadership, when they say they support you, it means that they’re going to make sure the process is followed to standard. It doesn’t mean they’re going to protect you for the possible consequences brought on by an accusation. For that, you need a true advocate. And for that, you should give us a call.

Contact the Law Office of Jocelyn C. Stewart at 253-212-958

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