Everyone has seen Law and Order, or another cop or lawyer show on TV. The suspect is read his Miranda rights: “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed to you.” And they still talk to the cops!
Have you ever wondered why? Have you ever assumed that’s only for dramatic effect, just for TV, that people don’t really talk to the cops. It’s not just on TV. People talk to law enforcement, and incriminate themselves, all the time.
People have a natural tendency to want to comply with authority. Military members even more so. In the service you are often taught to obey orders and not question authority. This is widely understood which is why military members are afforded even more rights against self-incrimination than the Miranda rights you hear on TV and in movies. Military members are afforded Article 31 rights. These are more protective and broad. Military members must be clearly informed about their right to remain silent and their right to an attorney whenever and wherever they are questioned if they are suspected of a crime, not just when they are arrested or in custody. This means commanders, supervisors, first sergeants and maybe even co-workers have to read you your rights if they suspect you of a crime.
The way military investigations are usually run, it is likely that the first time that you learn that you are under investigation for a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the UCMJ, will be when you are called into CID, NCIS, OSI, or security forces to be interviewed.
The first thing that they are going to do is be-friend you, they call this rapport building. They try to find common interest, get you talking – about anything – to set you at ease. They do not want to be your friend, they don’t care about your favorite sports team or where you went on leave last month. They are just trying to get you to confess to whatever they are investigating so they can close their case. They are not your friend. They don’t actually care about you and they are not, at all, trying to help you. They are simply trying to keep you talking. They are good at convincing you to talk to them. They go to training courses designed to specifically teach them how to be better at getting you to talk and keep talking.
The best time to call a lawyer to help you is at the first hint that something is going wrong. If you can, it is before you get called into the interview. But you should never feel like it will hurt you to stop them and ask to talk to a lawyer. It won’t. You’ve seen it onscreen, they tell you they can’t help you if you won’t talk to them. They say lawyers will mess things up and not let you tell your side of the story. This isn’t true. The truth is that the investigators can’t help you at all, they have no authority to even if they wanted to (which they don’t). Talking to investigators without a lawyer will almost certainly make things worse.
Innocent people, especially, feel compelled to clear things up immediately, set the record straight, tell their side of the story. While this is understandable, it almost never beneficial to you to do this. Your words will be twisted, your details may accidentally be off and this will later haunt you and be portrayed as evidence of lying. Don’t try and go this alone under any circumstance.
Bottom line is know your rights. Don’t talk to anyone questioning you until you have first talked to your lawyer. And make sure you have a lawyer that is experienced, talented and aggressive on your side.
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