Little Rock Air Force Base's collection of feature articles

Feature Search


Article 31 rights: Rights worth protecting

  • Published
  • By Capt. Veronique Anderson
  • Base Area Defense Counsel
Would you knowingly and willingly give up your right to free speech?

What about your right to bear arms?

Would you throw away your right to freely worship in accordance with your religious beliefs?

The answer to each of these questions should be a resounding "no."

That is why it is surprising that every day, Air Force members give up a very important protection guaranteed to each of us by the United States Constitution, federal statutes and military courts - the protection against self-incrimination.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice provides every military member protection against self-incrimination. Before a commander, superior or military law enforcement official questions a military member suspected of committing an offense under the UCMJ, he or she must provide the suspected military member with an Article 31 rights advisement.

The advisement must include the general nature of the suspected offense, the suspect's right to remain silent, the fact that any statement made by the suspect can and will be used against them and notification of the suspect's right to legal counsel.

An Article 31 rights advisement must be provided to a military suspect in the following circumstance: the very moment a commander, military superior, or military law enforcement official (1) suspects or reasonably should suspect a military member of committing an offense under the UCMJ; and (2) begins to ask questions or take any action which an incriminating response is either sought or is a reasonable consequence of such questioning.

Admissions or confessions provided by a suspected military member without a rights advisement cannot be admitted as evidence against that member at trial. In addition, any evidence that may have been obtained as a result of an unwarned confession is usually excluded from trial as well.

Once a military member invokes his or her right to remain silent, all questioning must immediately cease.

Consent to make a statement cannot be obtained by coercion, threats, promises or trickery.

The right against self-incrimination is an absolute right which cannot be taken away by any superior military authority. Furthermore, no action may be taken against a military member who chooses to invoke his or her right to remain silent. Thus, there are no reasons a military member should fear the consequences of invoking his or her right to counsel.

We strongly encourage any military member suspected of committing an offense under the UCMJ to contact the Area Defense Counsel's office for advice at 987-3260. As with the right of free speech, the right to bear arms, and freedom of religion, Article 31 rights are rights worth protecting.